Is your barramundi actually barramundi?

DID you know Asian sea bass is renamed barramundi when exported into Australia?

A lot of people don't and it is this fishy behaviour that has Australian barramundi farmers asking for help.

University of the Sunshine Coast Associate Professor of Marketing Meredith Lawley has spent the past five years investigating how best to promote Australian-farmed barramundi and develop the market.

During that time she interviewed seafood industry experts, fishmongers, wholesalers, retailers, consumers and dozens of chefs.

"The barramundi industry in Australia was in a bit of trouble," Dr Lawley said.

"Seventy per cent of the seafood we eat is imported. A lot of Australian didn't realise - they think if you buy barramundi it must be Australian, but it's not. Australia produces 6000 tonnes of barramundi in a year. One farm in Indonesia produces 40,000 tonnes in a year."

Dr Lawley said that initially, many of the barramundi farmers she spoke to were primarily production focused.

"They only wanted to work out how to get an extra $1 per kilo and how to grow bigger and better fish," she said.

"They had little concern about their product after it left the farm.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: University of the Sunshine Coast academic Dr Meredith Lawley shows off her award for innovative research into the Australian farmed barramundi industry.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: University of the Sunshine Coast academic Dr Meredith Lawley shows off her award for innovative research into the Australian farmed barramundi industry. Warren Lynam

"What my research showed them is they needed to understand what people like about barramundi and what consumers value. Quality control and marketing need to happen in parallel."

Dr Lawley has been recognised for her research, taking out the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association's Most Innovative Research Award.

ABFA president Marty Philips admitted that although he was good at farming barramundi, he had been terrible when it came to marketing and was thankful for Dr Lawley's findings.

"Something that surprised us is the amount of Australian pride in barramundi," he said. "People know it is an Aboriginal word and really think of it as an Aussie fish.

"The research has given us a lot of direction and focus and the momentum to go forward and develop the industry, which is worth around $50 million at the farm gate."


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