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Setting the standard for aquatic plant names

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

Samphire at Williamstown, Victoria. Photo: Catherine Norwood

Need to match a common aquatic plant name with the exact species it refers to? A searchable online database now makes this easier to do.

This is the database for the Australian Standard for Aquatic Plant Names (AS 5301), established in 2020 to help guide the development of markets for aquatic plant species in Australia, particularly seaweeds.

The Standard’s primary focus is on commercially available aquatic plants used as a source of food, therapeutics, derivatives and additives, that naturally require saltwater or freshwater habitats for growth.

Currently, these include, brown algae, cyanobacteria, green algae, red algae, aquatic protists and flowering plants, with the list to continually expand over time.

Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) is the official keeper of the Australia Standard for Aquatic Plant Names, as the Standards Development Organisation (SDO). The FRDC says the Standard will prevent a "plethora of unregulated names for the same species from eventuating in the marketplace."

For example, the brown algae species Ecklonia radiata is generally known as common kelp in Australia, but is also called golden kelp, spiny kelp and leather kelp. Golden kelp is now its official Standard Name.

The Standard also formally names the group of Codium species as velvet fingers; these species are also known as green sea fingers, dead man's fingers, felty fingers, forked felt-alga, stag seaweed, sponge seaweed, green sponge, green fleece and oyster thief.

And Samphires has been determined as the Standard name for the group of aquatic plant species in the Salicornia and Tecticornia genera, also known as sea asparagus, marsh samphire, glasswort, pickleweed, sea beans and samphire greens.

Top, from left, Golden kelp, velvet fingers. (Photos John Huisman). Bottom from left: samphire (John Huisman), velvet fingers (Catherine Norwood), golden kelp (Melanie Wells)


Use of this Australian Standard is voluntary; however, it is a best practice guide to help all players throughout the supply chain from growing and harvest through to retail and food service, to ensure they are referring to the same species in their buying, selling, and use of aquatic plants.

The standardisation of names is also expected to assist with consistent legislation and policy across Australia, as well as marketing and consumer choice.

The Standard has been in place since 2020 and was developed over two years, in extensive consultation with a diverse range of stakeholders.

FRDC’s Aquatic Plant Names Committee (APNC) considers additions or changes to currently listed species at least twice a year. The next round of applications for changes to the Standard will close on 31 March 2023. The application form can be found here. The committee’s next meeting to review applications will be in May 2023.

Committee members include: Mr Gordon (Gus) Yearsley (chair), Dr John Huisman (deputy chair), Mr James Ashmore, Dr Pia Winberg, Mr Russell Glover, Dr Alecia Bellgrove and Dr Shane Ahyong. FRDC Standard Development Organisation (SDO) Non-voting representatives are Dr Patrick Hone and Dr Carolyn Stewardson, along with the out-going Standards project manager Meaghan Dodd. Keep up-to-date with APNC here

Register here to receive the Aquatic Plant Names Standard updates.

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