What's in a Name?

Standard, common and scientific names

Each fish species has a unique two-part scientific name. However, many species have more than one "common" name. Or, a single common name may be used for more than one species of fish.

Have you ever caught a mulloway, a jewfish, a butterfish or even perhaps a river kingfish? These names have been used for a long time throughout Australia for the popular angling and food fish, known scientifically as Argyrosomus japonicus.

This species has commonly been called:

· “jewfish” in New South Wales and Queensland

· “mulloway” in Victoria

· “butterfish” in South Australia

· “kingfish” or “river kingfish” in Western Australia.

The ‘common’ names of Australian fishes have recently been standardised, so that each species has a single recognised “Standard Name”. The Approved Fish Names Brand was launched on 24 June 2008, and Argyrosomus hololepidotus is now called “Mulloway” throughout Australia.

Other examples include:

· Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) was previously known as barra, giant perch, palmer or silver barramundi

· John Dory (Zeus faber) was previously known as doorkeeper’s fish, dory keparu, kuparu or St Peter’s fish

· Snapper (Pagrus auratus) was previously known as bedford snapper, cockney, pink snapper, pinkie, red bream, schnapper, squire or nobby

As early as the 1920’s people recognised the need to standardise names to address the increasing confusion surrounding fishes marketed in Australia. Past surveys showed that when purchasing seafood, people were very concerned about the accuracy of fish names and the labelling of seafood.

The Australian Fish Names Standard AS SSA 5300 addresses these issues by assigning one authorised Standard Fish Name for each species. Standard Fish Names are used in Australia for:

· more than 400 commercial and recreational species of fish and invertebrates

· more than 4,000 other Australian finfish

· seafood species imported into Australia.

People from CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research (CMAR), the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) and the former Seafood Services Australia (SSA) joined forces with fish taxonomists, recreational anglers, aquarists, fish-book authors and people from the fishing industry to produce a uniform list of names for Australian fishes. The Standard, developed by the Fish Names Committee, resulted from extensive consultation and consensus among a wide range of stakeholders, including several of the world's leading fish taxonomists. This list aims to greatly improve seafood marketing in Australia. All seafood must be labelled with the correct Standard Fish Name allowing consumers to make informed choices when purchasing seafood or dining at restaurants.

More information about Standard Fish Names can be found at: Seafood Standards and FRDC

Standard Fish Names are available via a searchable Fish Names database.

Each species treatment in this website provides the Australian Standard Fish Name, along with other names that have been used for the species throughout Australia. In addition, common names used overseas are often listed.

Great video explaining the scientific names of fishes.


Author: Martin F. Gomon & Dianne J. Bray