Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) is a deepwater fish that is widely distributed in international waters. In Australia, orange roughy are found in waters from Tasmania to southern Western Australia, with small catches reported from waters off New South Wales. The Western Orange Roughy Zone in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) was the first region in Australia to be fished intensely for orange roughy. This occurred from the late 1980s through to the mid-1990s; with over 21,500 tonnes removed from this zone between 1986 and 1996.

Orange roughy was listed as Conservation Dependant under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) in November 2006, which required additional measures to address specific objectives and requirements of the Orange Roughy Conservation Program 2006 (the Conservation Program). The Conservation Program was reviewed by AFMA in 2014, and orange roughy stocks are now managed under the Orange Roughy Stock Rebuilding Strategy 2014 (the Strategy).

AFMA and the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA) have developed the Western Orange Roughy Research Plan (WORRP) with the objective to collect catch and effort data, as well as biological information on the age and size structure of the western orange roughy stock, which will ultimately support a future assessment of the stock’s status. The information collected is important in developing a robust set of indicators and reference points for orange roughy in the future.

Under the Research Plan, operators can apply for a scientific permit to participate in the program. If successful, operators will be allocated research catch allowance to fish in areas currently closed by the deepwater closure for the purpose of collecting data.

The WORRP was implemented during the 2020-21 SESSF fishing and the boats taking part in the program successfully collected data against the sampling targets. The AFMA Commission have supported continuing the WORRP for the 2021-22 fishing season, and expressions of interest were sought in June 2021 for boats to take part and collect data from August 2021 to January 2022.

For further information, please read the Western Orange Roughy Research Plan.