Orange roughy

Orange roughy
Orange roughy
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Beryciformes
Family: Trachichthyidae
Genus: Hoplostethus
Species: Hoplostethus atlanticus
Binomial name
Hoplostethus atlanticus
Collett, 1889

The orange roughy, red roughy, or deep sea perch, Hoplostethus atlanticus, is a relatively large deep-sea fish belonging to the slimehead family (Trachichthyidae). The Marine Conservation Society has categorized orange roughy as vulnerable to exploitation. It is found in 3 to 9 °C (37 to 48 °F) deep (bathypelagic, 180 to 1,800 metres (590 to 5,900 ft) waters of the Western Pacific Ocean, eastern Atlantic Ocean (from Iceland to Morocco; and from Walvis Bay, Namibia, to off Durban, South Africa), Indo-Pacific (off New Zealand and Australia), and in the Eastern Pacific off Chile. The orange roughy is notable for its extraordinary lifespan, with lifespans up to 149 years determined by scientific methods. It is important to commercial deep trawl fisheries. The fish is actually a bright, brick red color; however, the orange roughy fades to a yellowish orange after death.

Like other slimeheads, the orange roughy is slow-growing and late to mature, resulting in a very low resilience. They are extremely susceptible to overfishing because of this, and many stocks (especially those off New Zealand and Australia, which were first exploited in the late 1970s) have already crashed; recently discovered substitute stocks are rapidly dwindling. The flesh is firm with a mild flavour; it is sold skinned and filleted, fresh or frozen.[2]


Physical description

Fish in the Faroe Islands:
Orange roughy, Hoplostethus atlanticus
Faroese stamp issued: 7 Feb 1994
Artist: Astrid Andreasen

The orange roughy is not a vertically slender fish. They turn orange after death, but are red while living.

The rounded head is riddled with muciferous canals (part of the lateral line system), as is typical of slimeheads. The single dorsal fin contains four to six spines and 15 to 19 soft rays; the anal fin contains three spines and 10 to 12 soft rays. The 19 to 25 ventral scutes (modified scales) form a hard, bony median ridge between the pelvic fins and anus. The pectoral fins contain 15-18 soft rays each; the pelvic fins are thoracic and contain one spine and six soft rays; the caudal fin is forked. The interior of the mouth and gill cavity is a bluish black; the mouth itself is large and strongly oblique. The scales are ctenoid and adherent. The lateral line is uninterrupted, with 28 to 32 scales whose spinules or ctenii largely obscure the lateral line's pores. The eyes are large.

The orange roughy is the largest known slimehead species at a maximum standard length (a measurement which excludes the tail fin) of 75 centimeters (30 in) and a maximum weight of 7 kilograms (15 lb). The average commercial catch size is commonly between 35 and 45 cm in length. The name orange roughy was renamed from the less gastronomically appealing slimehead through a US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) program during the late 70's which identified (then) underutilized species that should be renamed to make them more marketable.[3]

Life history

A preserved specimen on display at a museum.

Orange roughy are generally sluggish and demersal; they form aggregations with a natural population density of up to 2.5 fish per square meter, now reduced to about 1 per square meter. These aggregations form in and around geologic structures, such as undersea canyons and seamounts, where water movement and mixing is high—ensuring dense prey concentrations. The aggregations are not necessarily for spawning or feeding; it is thought that the fish cycle through metabolic phases (active or feeding and inactive or resting) and seek areas with ideal hydrologic conditions to congregate during each phase. They lose almost all pigmentation while inactive, during which time they are very approachable. Predators include large deep-roving sharks, cutthroat eels, merluccid hakes, and snake mackerels.

When active, they feed primarily on zooplankton such as mysid shrimp, euphausiids, mesopelagic and benthopelagic fish, amphipods, and other crustaceans; adults also take smaller fish and squid. The orange roughy's metabolic phases are thought to be related to seasonal variations in prey concentrations. The inactive phase conserves energy during lean periods. Orange roughy can live up to 149 years.


Orange roughy are oceanodromous, non-guarding pelagic spawners: that is, they migrate several hundred kilometers between localized spawning and feeding areas each year and form large spawning aggregations (possibly segregated according to sex) wherein the fish release large, spherical eggs 2.25 millimetres (0.089 in) in diameter, made buoyant by an orange-red oil globule) and sperm en masse directly into the water. The fertilized eggs which are said to be 2.0 to 2.5 mm, (and later larvae) are planktonic, rising to around 200 meters (660 ft) to develop, with the young fish eventually descending to deeper waters as they mature. Orange Roughy are also synchronous, shedding sperm and eggs at the same time. The time between fertilization and hatching is thought to be 10 to 20 days; fecundity is low, with each female producing only 22,000 eggs per kilogram of body weight which is less than 10 per cent of the average for other species of fish. Also, spawning can last up to 2–3 weeks and starts around June or July. Orange roughy are very slow-growing and do not begin to breed until they are 25-30 years old.

The maturation age used in stock assessments ranges from 23–40 years,[4] which limits population growth/recovery, because each new generation takes so long to start spawning.


The maximum published age of 149 years was determined via radiometric dating of trace isotopes found in an orange roughy's otolith ("ear bone").[5] Similarly, counting by the growth rings of orange roughy otoliths has given a maximum age of 125 to 156 years.[citation needed] The validity of these results is questioned by commercial fishers as some state the former method is controversial and the latter method is known to underestimate age in older specimens.[citation needed] The issue has yet to be resolved definitively but carries important implications relating to the orange roughy's conservation status.


Capture rate of orange roughy worldwide

In recent years, human consumption of orange roughy has risen drastically due to increased supply through new deep-sea trawling techniques. Its recovery rate from fishing is slow because its long life cycle and sporadic reproduction making the fish prone to overfishing. Due to habitat damage of commercial trawling; which is the catching of Orange Roughy, some may not venture out during mating season. Studies have shown a decline in species associated with Orange Roughy, either indirectly through trophic interactions or directly through catching them, such as sea coral.

The United States continues to import up to 8,620 tonnes (19 million lb) per year. Several major food retailers have established seafood sustainability policies dealing with orange roughy. Some, such as Safeway, Inc., allow the sale of the fish,[6] while others explicitly prohibit its sale.[7] A 2003 joint report by the TRAFFIC Oceania and World Wildlife Foundation Endangered Seas Program argues that there is "probably no such thing as an economically viable deep-water fishery that is also sustainable." and concluded that "Similarly, international agreements to reduce fishing capacity, to remove subsidies which encourage over-fishing, to encourage co-operation in management of fish stocks and flag States to take responsibility for their vessels fishing on the high seas, appear to have gone largely unheeded, to the detriment of deep-sea species and their associated ecosystems."[4]

In addition to the dangers for the species, bottom trawling has been heavily criticized by environmentalists for its destructive nature. The destructive nature of bottom trawling combined with heavy commercial demand has focused criticism from both environmentalists and media.[8]

The Australian orange roughy fishery was not discovered until the 1970s, but by 2008, the biomass was down to 10% of the unfished level.[9] It was the first commercially sought fish to appear on Australia's endangered species list because of overfishing.[10]


Conservation measures consist of imperfectly-enforced catch limits, and listings on various endangered species and do-not-eat lists maintained by governments and environmental activist organizations.

According to sustainable seafood guides, such as Seafood Watch (USA), the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand,[11] the Marine Conservation Society (UK),[12] consumers should strongly avoid the species.

Orange roughy is New Zealand's highest value fishery, accounting for 17.2% of total finfish export earnings. The generally accepted fishery management practice is to quickly reduce the original biomass (fish down stage) to a target of 30%. Once this target is achieved, quotas are set. For example, assuming a hypothetical unfished biomass of 100,000 tons, 70,000 tons is considered "surplus" and unrestrained fishing is allowed to remove it. Quotas are set to maintain the 30,000 ton target biomass. The catch size that allows this is the maximum sustainable yield and was originally believed to be 1,200 tons per year. By 2005, it became obvious this quota was too high.[13]

The New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries has reduced catch quotas each year because the species' maturation and reproduction rates have been repeatedly overestimated. Antons Trawling, Ltd. represents 66% of the orange roughy quotas, and appealed the northern fishery's (ORH1) 2008 quota, which reduced the total allowable catch (TAC) from 1,470 tons to 914 tons. In February 2008, the High Court overturned the new quota, ruling the Minister did not have the legal power to set quotas for ORH1 because the strict interpretation of the Fisheries Act required an accurate population assessment and comparison to how many there should be. Due to the expense and difficulty of conducting assessments, only 20% of the areas had assessments. The majority of the unassessed areas had TACs of 10 tons or less, with a few notable exceptions, such as ORH1. As assessments in these areas to replace existing monitoring systems were neither cost effective nor technically feasible, the court recommended amendments to the Act.[14][15] However, the new quotas are estimated to sustainably support only 11% of the unfished population size. Also, catch misreporting is a serious and common problem, with one ORH1 permit holder pleading guilty in 2008 to exceeding his quota by 180 tons, which by itself represents 12% of the quota. Area limits and feature limits are also routinely exceeded. The Area A catch limit of 200 tons has been exceeded every year, while the 30 ton limit for the Mercury-Colville features has been exceeded in three of the last four years, including a catch of 64 tons in 2004-05. Since orange roughy is a valuable export, the Ministry of Fisheries has launched projects to study the fish.[16]

In 2010, Greenpeace International added orange roughy (deep sea perch) to its seafood red list, which contains fish that are generally sourced from unsustainable fisheries.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Hoplostethus atlanticus — Orange Roughy, Deep-sea Perch, Red Roughy, Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment and Heritage, Australia.
  2. ^ "Science Fact Sheet: Orange Roughy, Delicacy from the deep" (– Scholar search). Archived from the original on July 9, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-17 
  3. ^ "Trade secrets: Renaming and mislabeling of seafood". Retrieved 2011-03-17. 
  4. ^ a b Managing risk and uncertainty in deep-sea fisheries: lessons from Orange Roughy
  5. ^ Fenton, G.E; Short, S.A.; Ritz, D.A. (June, 1991). "Age determination of orange roughy, Hoplostethus atlanticus (Pisces: Trachichthyidae) using 210 Pb: 226 Ra disequilibria". Marine Biology (Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer) 109 (2): 197–202. doi:10.1007/BF01319387. ISSN (Print) 1432-1793 (Online) 0025-3162 (Print) 1432-1793 (Online). Retrieved 2010-06-18. 
  6. ^ Seafood Sustainability
  7. ^ What is Giant's Sustainable Seafood Policy?
  8. ^ "Case for trawl ban 'overwhelming'". BBC New. 2007-05-05. Retrieved 2006-11-15. 
  9. ^ Orange roughy: Down and out Australian Marine Conservation Society
  10. ^ Darby, Andrew (2006-11-10). "Trawled fish on endangered list". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2007-08-17. 
  11. ^ The Best Fish Guide 09-10
  12. ^ Fish Online
  13. ^ Industry Management Within the New Zealand Quota Management System: pdf.
  14. ^ Orange roughy decision shows changes are needed Scoop February 26, 2008
  15. ^ Proposed Amendment to the Fishery Act Office of the Minister of Fisheries
  16. ^
  17. ^ Greenpeace International Seafood Red list


Further reading

  • Clover, Charles. 2004. The End of the Line: How overfishing is changing the world and what we eat. Ebury Press, London. ISBN 0-09-189780-7
  • Earle, Sylvia. 2009. The World is Blue. National Geographic. ISBN 1426205414

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • orange roughy — [ruf′ē] n. pl. roughy orange roughy a bright reddish orange food fish (Hoplostethus atlanticus) of an order (Beryciformes, family Trachichthyidae) of deep sea bony fishes with primitive bony rays * * * …   Universalium

  • orange roughy — [ruf′ē] n. pl. roughy orange roughy a bright reddish orange food fish (Hoplostethus atlanticus) of an order (Beryciformes, family Trachichthyidae) of deep sea bony fishes with primitive bony rays …   English World dictionary

  • Orange Roughy — Kaiserbarsch Hoplostethus atlanticus Systematik Teilklasse: Echte Knochenfische (Teleostei) Überord …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • orange roughy — /ɒrɪndʒ ˈrʌfi/ (say orinj rufee) noun (plural orange roughy or orange roughies) a deep sea perch, Hoplostethus atlanticus, found in waters along the east coast of Australia. Also, roughy, orange roughie. Usage: For variation in the plural… …   Australian-English dictionary

  • orange roughy — islandinis pjūklapilvis beriksas statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas taksono rangas rūšis atitikmenys: lot. Hoplostethus atlanticus angl. orange roughy rus. атлантический большеголов; атлантический слизнеголов; исландский берикс ryšiai:… …   Žuvų pavadinimų žodynas

  • orange roughy — noun Etymology: roughy the marine fish Arripis georgianus, short for tommy rough, from Tommy, given name + rough, probably alteration of 1ruff Date: 1979 a reddish orange fish (Hoplostethus atlanticus) of deep subtropical and tropical waters that …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • orange roughy — noun : a reddish orange fish (Hoplostethus atlanticus) of the family Trachichthyidae having firm white flesh that is found in deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean from southern Europe to Africa, the southern Indian Ocean, and the western South… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Orange Roughies — is the name of a New Zealand drama television show created by Auckland based film company Screenworks, the first season of which screened on TV ONE from May to July 2006. The second season has recently finished filming and is, according to TVNZ,… …   Wikipedia

  • roughy — I. /ˈrʌfi/ (say rufee) noun (plural roughy or roughies) 1. → tommy rough. 2. → orange roughy. Also, roughie. Usage: For variation in the plural inflection, see note at fish1. II …   Australian-English dictionary

  • Hoplostethe orange — Hoplostethus atlanticus Hoplostèthe orange, empereur …   Wikipédia en Français

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