Project outline

Sydney Fish Market (SFM) is the largest seafood market in the Southern Hemisphere, and the third largest in the world by variety of fish sold. Of the world’s major fish markets, it is unique in combining wholesale auctions and retail throughout the day. It is a hub where culture, history, tourism, regulation, ecology, and economics determine lively exchanges. It has become an important tourist site attracting 20% of all international visitors to Sydney. But even those who love it will remark on its smell, crowdedness and overall chaos. This has led to ongoing discussions about its redevelopment – a fraught debate that have been happening for decades.

As part of the Sustainable Fish Lab (see About) in 2017 we are focusing on SFM. This is, in part, motivated by suggestions that the plans for the redevelopment of the SFM may come into fruition. We want to follow these developments closely, as they raise questions about city planning and housing, the state of Sydney as a coastal city, sustainable and fresh fish, public land and the future of SFM.

We will also examine the past of the SFM and its evolution as a central hub for retail and wholesale relations with fishers and processors. Through ethnographic observation and interviews we will seeks to excavate its multiple layers of significance. In the contemporary context where sustaining the oceans is of key concern and impacts the life of fish and livelihoods of fishers, we ask what role does the market play in facilitating sustainability? What models and practices of sustainability are promoted? And what are the necessary cultural conditions for ensuring seafood sustainability? We will explore ways that diverse forces – from urban planning to tourism, fishery regulation to trade, fishing cultures to stock disruptions – impact those who catch, eat and sell fish through the market.

The outcomes of this research will be available through an e-book. Rich in visual, audio and video documentation the publication will bring forward the stories of those who have shaped the Sydney Fish Market and whose livelihoods are determined through their wider relationships with the sea.

If you are connected to the Sydney Fish Market through your profession or as a consumer or tourist and would like to contribute to this research, please contact Kate Johnston.

Get in touch