Digital directions lead to a new e-fish frontier

From solid scientific foundations, the FRDC will expand communication efforts to the food-service sector

Chef Colin Barker (left) from Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay, Glebe, NSW, with Anthony Huckstep.

By Peter Horvat

With the June issue of FISH, I reach a personal milestone: it is my 50th issue as editor of the magazine.

The magazine has come a long way since starting. The first issues in early 1992 were no more than a couple of pages. It expanded and was written by Mal Maloney and designed by Daphne (Duckie) Bryant. The distribution model was pretty simple; it was included inside other magazines (some of which have long since passed) as an insert. The problem with this was we were never sure how many people actually received our publication.

The next evolution was to change the delivery model to send it directly to members of the fishing industry. The rationale was that we wanted to keep industry members up to date with our endeavours, since they are an integral part of our R&D effort. This view has not changed to this day.

So it was with a great deal of trepidation that the FRDC changed to direct mail. When we started, we had only a few thousand readers, but in time we built the list to a point where we believe we now go to almost 95 per cent of the licensed fishers and aquaculture companies.

The main aim of FISH is to tell a story that is factually correct, focuses on R&D and intertwines with how people use the knowledge that comes from the research the FRDC funds. To expand our capacity, the specialist writing company Coretext was brought on board to diversify our writers and enhance the overall delivery – including producing a digital version for Apple and Android tablets.

At the same time, the FRDC has been looking to improve how we deliver content in other formats including websites, social media, news bulletins and video – noting the feedback from our reader and stakeholder surveys (see FISH readers share their views) informs our approach.

The next stage of our evolution is now underway with two exciting initiatives. The first will see the FRDC web platforms redesigned to integrate how we deliver information for each website and drill down to more specific information. Pieces of information will join together and be easily accessed from anywhere in the websites. This will fundamentally change how users find information. Imagine a website where you can find everything we know about a particular species on the one page – research, sustainability, flavour, catch, or even where to buy it – this is what we are striving to build.  

The major part of the development focuses on the Status of Australian Fish Stocks Reports, the third edition of which will be released in early December 2016. Therefore, our goal is to launch all the websites around this time.

The challenge for me as the FRDC’s manager of communications and editor of FISH over the past decade has always been about achieving a balance between three things: a focus on research, telling a good story that is relevant to stakeholders at that time, and where to position ourselves in relation to industry or fisheries management. Ultimately, whatever platform we deliver content through, this challenge remains the same.


The second new piece of work for the FRDC is the development of an electronic FISH newsletter that will target food service and the media. Both are influential and often lack accurate information on the status of the Australian seafood industry.

Another key driver for taking this approach is the first FRDC national priority – that Australian fishing and aquaculture products are sustainable and acknowledged to be so. The FRDC has lots of information. We should now focus more on distributing it to a wider audience.

To help bring the E-FISH News to life and ensure it hits the mark, the FRDC has engaged award-winning writer and editor Anthony Huckstep. What we are hoping to deliver is good content and creative design, with a bit of edginess thrown in.

Some industry members will be familiar with Anthony Huckstep from the many visits he has made to see where produce comes from. Over the coming 12 months he will visit both fishers and chefs to understand what stories and information they would like to receive. 

A note from Fish editor Anthony Huckstep

Anthony Huckstep
Photos: Peter Horvat

I’ve been in publishing for more years than the annual kilogram per capita seafood consumption Down Under (18.7 kilograms). The way in which we communicate has changed dramatically, but the significance of each medium should not be lost on anyone. Print remains as vital as ever, but online offers a brave new world of opportunity.

While FISH is an outstanding conveyor of the brilliant work funded by the FRDC, the very nature of online means we can share information far beyond the realms of the FRDC’s capabilities. We can deliver the most up-to-date discussion on seafood in one neat and refined little email for one’s dissection and digestion from myriad platforms. It’s just a click of a button. It means we can deliver video content on fisheries, species and chefs who rely on seafood to underpin their cooking ethos.

The e-newsletter will also provide a vehicle to share the knowledge with a far wider audience to help dispel the myths of what is the most misunderstood sector in the food industry.

Providing the media and the food-service sector with access to information on a regular basis will not only help make seafood the hero of the plate, but also the centre of the discussion like never before. Access to knowledge changes lives and we’re here to share it with whoever wants to listen.

We’ll discuss what seafood the critics are eating, what chefs are doing with the catch of the day and, when and where possible, how consumers’ sentiment and understanding of the category is being enhanced.

Ultimately, the FRDC and our amazing fisheries are the basis of knowledge, we’re simply the conduit to help share that. Perhaps in the process we’ll even help Australians raise their average of a meagre 18.7 kilograms per capita annual consumption of seafood.  

Award-winning journalist Anthony Huckstep is the national restaurant critic and columnist for Delicious, food and drinks writer for The Australian, QANTAS magazine, GQ Australia and co-founder of MetalMouth – an annual dinner paying homage to great food and heavy metal. He spent 13 years editing the award-winning foodService magazine (Australian Business Magazine of the Year 2011) and reviewed for the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide over many years. He also penned Luke Mangan’s The Making of a Chef, the narrative for Sepia: The Cuisine of Martin Benn and will release Australian Seafood & Fish – a kitchen companion in October 2016.

FRDC Research Code: 2016-500

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Peter Horvat,