Orange Roughy: Down & Out
As chefs and/or consumers we have an effect on the sourcing and sale of seafood. With this in mind here is a word or two from the Australian Marine Conservation Society on the plight of the once plentiful Orange Roughy.
Orange roughy: Down and out - An unsustainable seafood choice from a destructive trawl fishery.
Until about 30 years ago, Australia's orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) remained relatively unaffected by fishing. For millennia, this very long-lived, deep sea species thrived in the cool deep waters of southern Australia, slowly building up its schools into large numbers. The discovery of this profitable bounty in the early 1990's led Australia's South East Trawl Fishery to hunt them to the edge of commercial extinction. In little more than a decade some schools have been reduced below 10 per cent of their original size, yet managers refuse to shut this fishery down.
About the Orange Roughy Fishery
- Orange roughy are currently managed as five separate stocks inside the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ). A separate stock is fished by both Australian and New Zealand fishers at a place called the South Tasman Rise which lies on the edge of Australia's Fishing Zone some 200 nautical miles south of Tasmania.
- All but one of Australia's orange roughy stocks (the Cascade Plateau) is severely overfished by demersal (bottom) trawling by the South East Trawl Fishery.
- The South East Trawl Fishery is a large multi-species bottom trawl fishery which hunts a mixture of finfish (or scalefish) species and invertebrates, including orange roughy, on the continental shelf, slope and offshore seamounts around southern Australia.
- Other species which have also been overfished by this fishery include the eastern gemfish, redfish and several deepwater dog sharks.
- AMCS (Australian Marine Conservation Society) is deeply concerned about the impacts of the South East Trawl Fishery on vulnerable species such as orange roughy.
- AMCS is also concerned about the impact of this fishery on bycatch species, which can be as much as 50 per cent of the total catch, and include protected species such as Australian fur seals.
- AMCS is campaigning to see this highly destructive fishery removed from important marine areas of southern Australia, including the deep sea, which is particularly vulnerable to trawling impacts.
Orange roughy are still being fished and sold in Australia and around the world. So what can you do?
1. Don't buy orange roughy (also called 'sea perch' or deep sea perch').
2. Tell your friends and family to do the same.
3. Inform seafood merchants about the orange roughy's plight: If you see orange roughy on the restaurant menu or at the seafood counter, please politely remind the merchant that this is one of Australia's most severely overfished species and perhaps they would be better offering their customers more sustainable alternatives. They simply may not know.
Orange Roughy - Vital Statistics
- Reddish body and fins
- Large, bony head
- Large eyes
- Oil-rich, with waxy layer below the skin
- Found around the world including the North Atlantic where they were first discovered in 1889.
- In Australia, they live mainly on the continental slope, offshore seamounts and plateaus around south eastern and southern Australia.
- Slow-growing, very long-lived fish, thought to live up to 150 years.
- This means that many orange roughy swimming around today may have been alive long before Australia became a federation in 1901!
- Most fish caught are 30-40 cm long and weigh between 0.9-1.9 kg. Maximum size is 50 cm and 3.6 kg.
- Mainly prawns, fish and squid
- Fish do not begin to breed until they are 25-30 years old.
- Each female carries about 22,000 eggs per kilogram of body weight which is less than 10 per cent of the average for other species of fish.
More Info. on Aussie fish...