Name change makes species' origin crystal clear

Market opportunities, international consistency and the identification of a new species can all trigger applications for a new or revised official fish name

By Catherine Norwood

Advances in scientific knowledge have prompted a review in the naming of Australia’s Crystal Crab species and an application to the FRDC’s Fish Names Committee that clarifies exactly which crab comes from where.

For more than a decade, Western Australian fishers have been catching and exporting Crystal Crabs (Chaceon bicolor), developing a high-value export market. However, researchers have since identified that WA’s Crystal Crab is actually the species C. albus. A different, east-coast species is the real C. bicolor with the officially recognised common name of Crystal Crab.

The new information has meant there is no official common name for the WA species in the Australian Fish Names Standard, says Alan Snow, who is project manager for the FRDC’s Fish Names Committee, which reviews changes to the Standard.

“As a different species, the WA crab needs a common name that differentiates it from the east-coast species,” Alan Snow says. “It is the Western Australians who have developed the export fishery based on the name Crystal Crab, while there is no real commercial fishery in the east.”

Recognising this, the Fish Names Committee proposed, and has given interim approval to, a name change assigning the common name Crystal Crab to WA’s C. albus and renaming C. bicolor as the Eastern Crystal Crab.The interim approval agreed on at a meeting of the Fish Names Committee in April 2016 will be followed by a 10-week public consultation period before final approval is granted.

Alan Snow says clarifying these kinds of details is sometimes simply good housekeeping for the Australian fisheries industry, but there are potentially significant commercial effects behind naming pracices too. “The WA Crystal Crab is already well recognised in export markets and changing its name now would cause unnecessary confusion. That could be detrimental to industry,” he says.

Also receiving interim approval in April was the name Antarctic Toothfish for the species Dissostichus mawsoni, as distinct from Patagonian Toothfish (D. eleginoides).

Although recognised internationally, there has been no official designation for Antarctic Toothfish in Australia. “That’s probably because it’s never landed in Australia,” says the quality assurance officer with Petuna Seafoods, Rodney Brett, who has made the fish names database application on behalf of the Australian-based business Australian Longline. He says one of the Australian Longline vessels passed through Hobart and exported its catch aboard the same vessel to New Zealand. But as the species was not recognised in the Australian Fish Names Standard, the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service could not provide final health certification for the catch that identified the species as Antarctic Toothfish.

Rodney Brett says in this instance the cargo was taken to New Zealand and will be exported to the US, which does not require food certification. But an update to the Australian Fish Names Standard would prevent a similar issue, and also brings Australia into line with international market naming practices. International seafood supplier Pacific West Foods Australia has also been given interim approval for two new names.

Managing director Michael Steele says the company has been importing Sebastes alutus and S. melanops from the US for the past two years as mid-priced white-fleshed fish. However, neither has an official name designation in Australia. Internationally, these species are widely recognised as Pacific Ocean Perch and Black Rockfish, respectively. Michael Steele says while there are no restrictions on selling these species in Australia using the international names, adding them to the fish names database will give them official recognition in the domestic market.

Another company, which is seeking to differentiate its rock lobster exports, has requested that the Australian Fish Names Standard recognise different members of the rock lobster Panulirus species. Many of these species have been grouped under the common name of Tropical Rock Lobster. The exception is P. cygnus, the Western Rock Lobster.

New rock lobster names receiving interim approval include Ornate Rock Lobster (P. ornatus), Scalloped Rock Lobster (P. homarus), Fourspine Rock Lobster (P. penicillatus), Painted Rock Lobster (P. versicolor), Longlegged Rock Lobster (P. longipes) and Mud Rock Lobster (P. polyphagus).

Alan Snow says there are already distinct commercial fisheries and markets for the Scalloped and the Painted Rock Lobster. There are already more than 5000 names in the Australian Fish Names Standard, including all significant Australian commercial species and many international commercial species. “But there is also still more work to be done, particularly with invertebrates,” Alan Snow says. “And many of the species we consider bycatch today may well be the target species of the future, so it’s important that we recognise them.”

FRDC Research Code: 2015-210

More information

Alan Snow,