What's in a Name?

The Australian Fish Names Standard


Although each fish species has a unique two-part scientific name, 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.

Throughout Australia, this species has been known as:

·       “jewfish” in Queensland and New South Wales

·       “mulloway” in Victoria

·       “butterfish” in South Australia

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


The problem of confusion over common names was solved with the introduction of The Australian Fish Names Standard AS SSA 5300 which prescribes a standard fish name for each species of fish produced or traded in Australia. 

“Mulloway” is the Australian Standard Name for Argyrosomus hololepidotus

The Standard specifies that fish sold to consumers (e.g. retail sales and restaurants) must be identified by their standard fish name. Fish sold other than directly to consumers (e.g. wholesale, export, import) must be identified by their standard fish name or scientific name.

Standard Fish Names are available via the Australian Fish Names Database which includes more than 4,000 Australian and imported species. 

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.

Here's a great video explaining the scientific names of fishes.


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 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.

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.

Cite this page as:

Bray, D.J. & Gomon, M.F. 2019. What's in a Name? in Fishes of Australia, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/content/148
Author: Bray, D.J. & Gomon, M.F. 2019