What is the best tasting fish in Australia?
Many fish-lovers would answer: “Easy question barramundi.” In fact, most would probably rank barra as the finest fish in the world. It consistently gets top marks from chefs and more humble foodies. Of course, taste is subjective – some people think live scorpions on a stick are yummy – and it’s not surprising that barramundi is the favourite fish of north Australians. The amazing – and heartening – fact about barra is that it is not overfished, despite its popularity. And this is because commercial and recreational fishing is well-managed in the Northern Territory. Carmel Ball of Darwin Fish Market is a king threadfin fan, but acknowledges that barra is still king of the seafood world. She says the NT has the best and most varied seafood in the world.
Don’t take my word for it,” she says. “Just listen to what interstate and overseas visitors say. They are bowled over by the quality of our seafood. “Many Territorians and Australians in general don’t fully appreciate what marvellous natural produce we’ve got here.” Surveys show that an increasing number of people are going on food and wine holidays. “The chance to sample high-quality local food plays a big part in people’s holiday making decisions,” says Carmel. “We are in a good position to take advantage of that.” The Territory is unique in Australia in having strict labelling regulations – overseas fish served in restaurants must be tagged “imported”.
This gives diners the chance to support a sustainable Australian industry while eating quality fish. NT Seafood Council Chief Executive Katherine Winchester says the Territory is the “envy of Australia” because of its labelling laws. Accurate labelling of seafood allows the consumer to make informed choices about seafood purchases,” she says. “Territorians show strong support for clearly labelled seafood dishes, which is important because consumers are telling us that freshness and supporting the local industry are their top deciding factors when selecting seafood.
Northern Territory tropical waters are some of the best managed and most pristine in the world. “The Territory has some of the best seafood in Australia, and like everything, seafood tastes much better when it’s harvested close to home. “The Northern Territory seafood industry has a strong business community that proudly promotes NT seafood and Territorians who think local and support local.” Many people are tempted to eat imported farmed fish because it’s much cheaper than Australian wild-caught. But the standards of hygiene in overseas fish farms often leave much to be desired. I went birdwatching at one in Thailand; it was dirty. I went birdwatching at one in Indonesia and thought I was at a sewerage farm –the water was inky black and polluted with plastic bags, and the stench was overpowering. I don’t know how the fish survived. I vowed then and there never to eat fish farmed overseas again.
If you can afford it, always buy wild-caught Australian fish. If you can’t afford wild-caught, buy Australian farmed – in both cases, you know you’re supporting a well-managed, sustainable industry. And if you can’t afford Aussie wild-caught or farmed fish, scrounge a juicy fresh-caught barra off the fishing fanatic next door.