In Melbourne, a city full of food and obsessed by coffee, I cook, I eat, I share the good news and the bad. essjay eats

Fish Fight at My Kitchen Rules

Monday night (Season 2 Episode 4) on Channel 7’s reality cooking show, My Kitchen Rules,  something happened that quite literally shocked me.  Did you see it?

Now I know that I and my foodie friends sometimes sit in the stratosphere pontificating about local, sustainable and ethical food.  We  don’t just blindly buy “organic” or “free range” and be done with it.  Nope we want to know WHY that <insert item> is labelled sustainable/ethical/organic.  We want to know the people who grow our food, and visit the farms where they grow it.  So sometimes, I guess we can be removed from the thoughts of the general populace.

But *surely* everyone knows that Blue Fin Tuna is endangered?

The Federal Goverment of Australia has listed stocks as “conservation dependent“, Greenpeace goes further and has called for a complete ban on fishing until 2030.

But happy contestants Donna and Reade from SA trotted off to their local Coles store and specifically ask for Blue Fin Tuna.  No mention was made about how and where the tuna was sourced, no mention was made that it was a “very-very-sometimes-if-ever-food”.  One of the judges, chef Manu  Feildel went so fas as to descried it as “…the most beautiful piece of fish you can get in South Australia”.  Hmmmm …did the tuna industry of South Australia sponsor this episode? (Is Blue Fin Tuna available at your Coles?)

And if you’re about to tell me that “farmed tuna is an acceptable alternative” I suggest you check out Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls “Fish Fight” episode on farming fish and the environmental damage it causes.  Oh, and if you think that because your tuna is labelled “dolphin” friendly that’s all you need to worry about – think again. See the episode above for details about purse seining as a fishing method.  This is the method used by many Australian tuna fisheries.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society “strongly opposes the continued fishing and industrial sea cage aquaculture of Southern Blue Fin Tuna”.

“Some 98 per cent of Australia’s SBT catch today is taken by purse seiners and transferred into sea cages anchored off Port Lincoln, South Australia, where they are fattened for sale, primarily to Japan.”

We know that shows like this, specifically Channel Ten’s Masterchef, can significantly increase sales at Coles stores. And there has been controversy before when one of Chef Curtis Stone’s $10 recipes for Coles featured a specifically named “caged hen egg” directly conflicting with his own philosophy.

Surely, SURELY, in a program about food aimed at the general populace, we can do better than to ignore this?

So, Channel 7, Coles or Manu – who’s going to make a statement about this little stuff up?

[If you recorded this episode of My Kitchen Rules, I’d love to know the wording of the targetted Coles ad that was on directly after they bought the fish.]


Southern Bluefin Tuna protected

ABC news “Australia urges action to save bluefin tuna”

Commission for the conservation of southern blue fin tuna

My Kitchen Rules: Seven Network

For mor information on Sustainable Fish in Victoria -see  Hilary McNevin’s excellent book “Guide to eating Fish” or jump on her blog at Food With Thought.

For more information on the problems with farmed tuna in South Australia check out the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s fish guide.


17 thoughts on “Fish Fight at My Kitchen Rules

  • […] It is the food that restaurants would cook if they were limited to shopping at a duopoly supermarket or trapped on a desert island and a mystery box washed ashore, filled with ingredients from nowhere in particular. 10,000 shipping containers go missing overboard each year, so it is not beyond the realm of possibility that one contains chilli, besan flour, a bottle of muscat, lentils and gorgonzola. There are no seasons in the supermarket’s fluorescent glare, nor real ethical objection to eating endangered species. […]

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  • […] ice-cream balls was a tasty idea? Googled "blue fin tuna" to work out whether ecological shame should be on the […]

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  • Excellent post – good on you for picking up on it & spreading the word. I’ve seen an Aussie TV chef using an endangered species in the past and was equally gob-smacked!

    Comment from: The Food Sage

  • @Emily thanks for you support 🙂 check the link’s to Hilary’s book above, and also the Australian Marine Conservation Society website. Keep on spreading the word.

    @injera I don’t think I’ve ever seen tuna “loins” for sale in Coles, steaks perhaps? I suspect a marketing rat. Will make a 7Yahoo profile and comment methinks!

    @queenotisblue The link for the show is in the blog post if you want to tempt yourself (I doubt you’ll want to watch much more) 🙂 Thanks for your support.

    Comment from: essjayeats

  • @steve Welcome and thank you for your great comments. I like the idea of us having reached a tipping point – I’m really quite sick of people who should know better saying *anything* to keep a producer or a sponsor happy. It.doesn’ I’ve been following an interesting situation with Michael Moore in the US, who totally underestimated a) the impact of some badly chosen words of his and b) the power of social networking to harness negative comments into a surge of backlash. He has retracted and is now “fighting the good fight” for better understanding.

    Dare we hope for the same with celebrity food endorsements?

    Comment from: essjayeats

  • Nice prod at the old conscience EssJay. These shows which seem to appropriate the touchstones of our food obsessed culture were always fairly likely to trip themselves up with issues such as these. It shows you just how shallow the real commitment and informed involvment is, which though hardly surprising, is still dissappointing.
    I’ve said it before but I think we’ve reached the tipping point for the cred of many of these spruiking chefs and food, er, personalities. If your schtick cant stand up to watertight scrutiny, you’ve got everything to lose IMHO

    Comment from: steve

  • I didn’t watch the episode (‘m trying to ween myself of TV cooking shows/food shows – I simply watch too many) but it sounds like an opportunity to ‘educate’ that was misplaced or gone awry. A simple web search would have provided information on its endangered status but I guess there is so much money invested in the industry…

    Great to read a critical perspective. Thanks.

    Comment from: Queenotisblue

  • Well done for drawing attention to this. I wonder if Manu will respond to the tweets? Somebody has made a comment on the MKR website regarding the use of southern bluefin and your blog post is right up there in the Google ranking, so hopefully it will promote awareness.

    Interesting to see that the tailor-made Coles ad highlighted using “quality local ingredient” – I don’t shop there, but had a quick squiz at their online service to see if they list the tuna – and they have Barramundi imported from Taiwan. Ah, well…

    Comment from: Injera

  • Good on you for writing a post on this! I think it is absolutely terrible that a show like MKR would promote such an endangered fish, but I’m not surprised. I think that in the general population, very few people understand that some types of fish really shouldn’t be eaten – I’ve had to convince people in the past that Orange Roughy and Swordfish are not good choices.

    Hilary McNevin’s book sounds interesting as I have found it difficult to find consistent information on which fish to eat…

    Comment from: Emily

  • I was watching and a little alarm bell went off in my head, but as I don’t eat fish I didn’t trust my memory and assumed I was wrong. Good to see you jumping in and reminding people!

    Comment from: Duncan | Syrup & Tang

  • @Liz I don’t see how the presence or absence of the words “Blue Fin” helps ratings? Just call it tuna. Or buy Yellow Fin Tuna. I really don’t know why they had to specifically nominate Blue Fin ….?? As for the red bean soup – I thought it was a strange dessert to serve to the group. Asian styled deserts are known to be less sweet than the ones I’m used to, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. If you’re not used to it, I guess it could seem not sweet enough, but I would have expected Pete and Manu to know that as well, and say something about the cultural differences perhaps? Or maybe I just overestimate the food knowledge of the chefs/judges?

    @duncan Hi and thanks 🙂 As you know, I don’t eat fish either 🙂 But I was a Marine Biologist once, and I’ve just watched Hugh F-W’s show so it was right in the forefront of my mind I guess.

    Comment from: essjayeats

  • It’s all the rating that matter to them isn’t it? The amount of revenue gaining from the program. *shake head*
    Caught the program 1st time last week (Vic team) and was very disappointed by the judges comment regarding the sweetness of red bean soup. Did I expect too much? Don’t think I will actually catch another episode again.

    Comment from: Liz

  • You go girl!

    Comment from: penny aka jeroxie

  • @patinoz Some fish shops will label them appropriately – I’d say, only buy from those that do? Hilary’s book and blog is a great source of information.

    @jeroxie Thanks for the support 🙂

    @Ed Saddest I think is Manu’s comment. The celebrity has to stand behind their words. I did wonder if I should write anything at all, feed into the controversy. But on reflection, I’m still angry about the Curtis Stone egg and I didn’t write about it at the time, and Hugh F-W has me all riled up over fish! 🙂

    Comment from: essjayeats

  • I briefly flipped through the show and was shocked to see it. But it shouldn’t surprise us. All the producers care about is the human drama and ratings. And a bit of controversy is a bonus. It’s sad that they don’t care about the produce like Masterchef does. Or does it?An interesting question.

    Comment from: Ed

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ed Charles, Friendly Savage, Injera Rufus, Suzanne Farrell, Suzanne Farrell and others. Suzanne Farrell said: @youngmel @hilarymcnevin @colesonline @manufeildel @tummyrumbles @messytable I've blogged my thoughts […]

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  • I’d still like to see better labelling of fish at point of sale. I didn’t see any country of origin on the labels when I was window-shopping at Clamms the other day. And some species go under several names making it more confusing.

    Comment from: Patinoz

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