Eastern catch limit
0 tonnes
for 2017-18 season

Sustainability status
Sustainable
Western catch limit
0 tonnes
for 2017-18 season

Sustainability status
Sustainable
Southern catch limit
0 tonnes
for 2017-18 season

Sustainability status
Sustainable
Albany & Esperance
0 tonnes
for 2017-18 season

Sustainability status
Sustainable
Cascade Plateau
0 tonnes
for 2017-18 season

Sustainability status
Sustainable
Orange roughy is moist with a mild and delicate flavor.

It can be prepared in many ways, just make sure not to overcook it.


  • Orange roughy

Biology

Scientific name: Hoplostethus atlanticus

Family: Trachichthydae

Other names: Slimehead, deep sea perch, red roughy, orange ruff

Description: Orange roughy have a bright reddish orange head and body. The body is compressed and oval-shaped. The head is covered with bony ridges and deep mucous cavities. The mouth and gill cavities are bluish black. The dorsal fin has 6 spines.

Size (length and weight): Up to 75 cm in length and 7 kg. More commonly found at about 50 cm in length.

Life span: Greater than 140 years.

Habitat: Orange rough are a deepwater species that inhabits waters over steep continental slopes and ocean ridges. They are usually found dispersed over rough bottoms and steeps at depths of 700-1400 metres. Orange roughy form dense spawning aggregations in winter, with non-spawning aggregations occurring sporadically in summer and autumn. Aggregations usually occur from 5-10 metres above the sea bed, with some extending over 50 metres in height from the sea floor. Aggregations are usually associated with submerged hills or pinnacles. Excluding substantial migrations to spawning grounds, orange roughy are a relatively sedentary species.

Prey: Bentho-pelagic and meso-pelagic fish such as squid, viperfish, lanternfish, whiptails, crustaceans, amphipods and mysids.

Predators: Include oilfish and large basketwork eels.

Reproduction: Orange roughy reach reproductive maturity at 27-32 years of age. Spawning aggregations form between mid-July and late August. Adult males appear to spawn over a 1-2 week period, with females spawning for up to 1 week. Females produce 10 000-90 000 eggs in a single spawning event each season. The eggs float to the surface after fertilisation before sinking again to hatch close to the sea floor. Hatching is thought to occur 10-20 days after fertilisation. It is likely that females do not spawn every year.

Other notes: Orange roughy are listed as Conservation Dependent under the EPBC Act and are managed under AFMA’s Orange Roughy Rebuilding Strategy.

Fishery

Fishery found in Gear used Catch of this species is targeted or incidental
Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – South East Trawl Sector Bottom trawl Targeted in Cascade Plateau and Eastern zone, incidental in other zones
Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery – Great Australian Bight Trawl Sector Bottom trawl Incidental
High Seas Bottom trawl Targeted

Fact sheet on the re-opening of a commercial fishery for orange roughy in Australia (PDF, 342 KB)

Management of catch

Orange roughy are managed under the Orange Roughy Rebuilding Strategy 2015. The primary objective of the rebuilding strategy is to return all orange roughy stocks to levels where they can be taken sustainably under the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines and ultimately maximise the economic returns to the Australian community.

Specific objectives of the rebuilding strategy are:

  • to rebuild orange roughy stocks (except the eastern zone and Cascade Plateau that are assessed as having rebuilt) in the SESSF to the limit reference point within a biologically reasonable timeframe
  • having reached the limit reference point, rebuild these stock to the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) biomass level
  • once MSY is reached to pursue the maximum economic yield biomass.

Management arrangements implemented under the rebuilding strategy fit into five broad categories:

  1. Catch limits – Targeted fishing for orange roughy has been prohibited in the SESSF, excluding the Cascade Plateau, since 2006. Targeted fishing will not re-commence for a stock until it is at least above its limit reference point. For those zones where targeted orange roughy fishing is not permitted TACs are set at levels which cover the minimum incidental catch while targeting other species.
  2. Closures – Spatial closures have been implemented in deep water areas within the SESSF except where targeted orange roughy fishing is allowed or specific management arrangements are in place to target other deep water species.
  3. Effort restrictions – Limiting entry to existing fisheries by not granting any new fishing concessions. This means that to fish in a fishery, an existing concession must be leased or purchased
  4. Reporting and monitoring – Catches are reported by operators and monitored by AFMA in accordance with the logbook provisions of the fishery. Catch, discard and ageing data are collected through AFMA’s observer program and Acoustic Optical Surveys.
  5. Assessment – Conducting stock assessments under the SESSF Harvest Strategy Framework. The stock assessment for the Eastern Zone was updated in 2014.

Orange roughy can also be caught in the High Seas area. Australian boats fishing for orange roughy in this area are limited in the amount of fishing they can do and how much they can catch. They must also have a High Seas permit authorised by AFMA.

Eastern zone orange roughy

Since 2006, acoustic surveys have been conducted in areas off eastern Tasmania, most recently in 2013. The surveys were used to estimate the size of the spawning stock using the signal strength from the acoustic echo.

In 2014 a new stock assessment was prepared by CSIRO that used data from the fishery and acoustic surveys. The eastern zone stock structure hypothesis used in the 2014 assessment combined stock from the eastern zone and Pedra Branca area in the southern zone The assessment indicated that the eastern stock has rebuilt to between 23 per cent and 28 per cent (median 26 per cent) of unfished biomass at the start of 2015. This is above the limit reference point and the eastern zone and part of the southern zone of the fishery was reopened to targeted orange roughy fishing on 1 May 2015.

To manage any potential risks associated with fishing orange roughy aggregations, AFMA has established special monitoring and management arrangements of fishing in specific areas in the eastern and southern zones.

Reports

Orange Roughy Eastern Zone stock assessment incorporating data up to 2014 (PDF, 2 MB)

Orange Roughy Eastern Zone stock assessment incorporating data up to 2014: Supplement – Constant catch scenarios (PDF, 170 KB)

Area caught

Orange roughy is a deepwater fish widely distributed in southern Australian waters from New South Wales, south around Tasmania and west to southern Western Australia.

Orange roughy are primarily caught in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery using bottom trawl gear. Most fishing occurs on winter spawning grounds (mid-July to late August), but fishing can also occur during the summer months when orange roughy disperse more widely across flat bottom and mix with deepwater sharks and oreo species.

Orange roughy is also found off New Zealand, southern Africa and in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.


Source: Atlas of Living Australia

Fishing gear and environmental impacts

Bottom trawl is the main method used to catch orange roughy.

AFMA carries out ecological risk assessments for all of its major fisheries. The impact of bottom trawl on bycatch species and habitats has been assessed as part of the assessment. AFMA then mitigates, or reduces, that impact through an ecological risk management strategy. The strategy details a number of management arrangements and strategies which aim to reduce the impact of fishing on the environment, including:

  • minimum mesh sizes for bottom trawls to reduce the catch of small and juvenile fish
  • mitigation devices to reduce interactions with threatened, endangered and protected species
  • and closing areas to fishing to protect vulnerable species and habitats.

Targeted fishing for orange roughy is a selective fishing method which means bycatch of other species is low but some deepwater sharks and other species may be caught. Bycatch of other commercial fish species must be covered by fishing quota.

Environmental impacts from the implementation of the Orange Roughy Rebuilding Strategy are anticipated to be positive. The broad objective of the strategy is to return orange roughy stocks to a sustainable levels that is consistent with the threat abatement and recovery of the species.

Interactions may occur with seabirds. It is mandatory for all trawl boat in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery to implement a vessel specific seabird management plan to reduce interactions with seabirds.

Fishing in the high seas requires fishers to move bottom fishing activities 5 nm away from any area where vulnerable corals and sponges are found.

Want to know more?

This is just an overview of orange roughy, if you want to know more see the links below:

Sustainability – see the most recent Fishery status report

Management – this fish is managed under the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery and the High Seas permits

Expert adviceSlope Resource Assessment Group and the South East Management Advisory Committee

Environmental impactsBycatch and discard program

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