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Labelling Fish for EU Export – What is in a Name?

09 December 2013

Labelling for export can be a complicated process - not only do you have to ensure that you adhere to the minefield of legislation, but you also want to make sure that the customer is impressed - after all the label is what every customer will see before they make that all important final decision of whether or not to purchase your product, writes Katherine Hawes, Aquarius Lawyers, for

The aquaculture business is a market which is just beginning to show its potential. Just like any other business, it is one thing to create a product, but taking it to that next level of successfully packaging it, labelling it correctly and successfully selling it to a consumer is a completely different kettle of fish.

There is a lot of demand in the world's largest market, the EU, which of course opens up a lot of opportunities from different sellers in the fishing and aquaculture market. Strong competition means that there needs to be a significant effort into presenting the products in the right manner so that it catches the attention of buyers in the EU market.

In addition, the EU has recently introduced new guidelines for labelling which will come in place as from December 2013. These guidelines aim to assist EU consumers making informed decisions on the type of food they eat.

Here are a few of my top tips for labelling for the EU:

New EU Legislation

Existing labelling guidelines currently state that labels must include details of where the fish was caught, by whom and how it was produced. However, the new guidelines state that labels will also have to include date of minimum durability and whether the product has been defrosted or not.

For those with industry knowledge, there will also now be an obligation to display the scientific name of the product, a more specific description of where it was caught, and details of the fishing gear used. These new requirements apply to both prepacked and non-prepacked products.

In addition to the mandatory information, you may also be required to include additional information such as the date of catch, or the date of harvest of aquaculture products, or information on the port at which the products were landed. The good news is that this may be provided on posters or billboards nearby the merchandise.

As for commodities produced through aquaculture, products will have to list the country in which a seafood product grew to more than half its final weight, stayed for more than half its rearing period or, for shellfish, spent the last six months of the cultivating or rearing process.

Always Include Pertinent Information

The product name is a key area of labelling. Always keep in mind that each country and culture may respond different to the name of your product. This has been an issue for many years and many companies now create different product names depending on where the product is sold.
Let’s explore this using ‘Dolphin Fish’ . This fish has multiple names and in actual fact, is not part of the dolphin family at all. It is actually a member of the Coryphaenidae family and the most common name used for this fish throughout the world is actually dorado. However, it can also be known as the dorade coryphène, lampuga, lampuka, lampuki, rakingo, calitos, or maverikos! That is seriously a lot of names for just one type of ish. So, imagine your task if you decide to sell this type of fish to the world market.

You would need to do some serious research and investigation to find out what the locals call the fish to ensure that you package and label it in a manner that they would understand what they are eating – and of course ensure that you are adhering to any legislation in place.


The other area of importance, especially for the EU market is eco labelling. Eco-labelling aims to identify and promote products that have a reduced environmental impact and provides a sustainability measurement for consumers.

Traditionally, eco-labelling systems have concentrated on products and their packaging and although this may be voluntary in many countries around the world, it can certainly assist a person or company to increase product sales. The EU however has strict standard for Eco labelling and if this wasn’t complicated enough, many of the member EU countries have their separate labels.

The standards can be complex and some rules that apply in Australia might not apply to the EU and vice versa so it is important to stay abreast of the latest developments. 

December 2013

Known as “The Fish Lawyer” for her specialisation in aquaculture, marine and fisheries law, Katherine Hawes is the principal of Aquarius Lawyers. With over 20 years’ legal and business experience, Katherine’s expertise lies in advising and representing organizations and businesses on issues pertaining to the marine environment. To find out more about Katherine, please see

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