Orange Roughy

Orange Roughy: Quick Facts

Scientific name: Hoplostethus atlanticus

Other names: Deepsea perch, sea perch, slimehead (NZ), red roughy (Australia), hoplostete orange, granatbarsch (Germany), pesce arancio (Italy), beryx de nouvelle-zelande (France), rosy soldierfish (Canada).

Ranking: E (Red - Worst Choice)

Best Fish Guide: Orange Roughy

 Ranking: E (Red - Worst Choice)

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Alternative choice: Trevally

Description: Orange Roughy is a very slow growing and long-lived (120 – 130 years) deepwater fish, making it highly vulnerable to fishing pressure and overfishing. It does not breed until 23-31 years old and does so once a year in large spawning aggregations, often around deepwater seamounts, pinnacles and canyons around New Zealand. There are nine distinct orange roughy fisheries within the New Zealand EEZ, each managed independently. The East and South Chatham Rise fishery is the largest and oldest orange roughy fishery in the world. Jointly with porbeagle shark, orange roughy has the lowest ecological ranking on the Best Fish Guide. 


Ecological concerns: New Zealand’s orange roughy have suffered from years of over-fishing on the spawning grounds, which has decimated populations. Although quotas have been reduced in recent years, serious concerns remain as they may not be enough.  Nothing is known about roughy recruitment and there is a mismatch between model projections and catch information. Most populations are now below 20% of their original unfished size with one reduced to just 3%.

As well as stock concerns, orange roughy is caught by bottom trawling, which destroys sea floor species assemblages and fragile seamount habitats. It effectively bulldozes the sea floor demolishing black corals, lace corals, coral trees, colourful sponge fields and long-lived bryozoans, some aged at over 500 years old. Deepwater sharks and other non-target fish species are also caught, which alters marine food web dynamics. As a prey species for sperm whales and giant squid, orange roughy depletion has a direct impact on these deepwater species. Some orange roughy fisheries have also caught seabirds and marine mammals.  

Economic value: Orange Roughy continues to decline in value but is still one of the top ten most valuable export fish species, worth $42 million in 2010-11. Previously this was $200 million. Most is exported to the USA and Australia, with some to the UK where it is reportedly used by some fast food chains as fish fillet burgers. Orange roughy is also sold in New Zealand, for example as frozen fish fillets.


Biology and risk of overfishing (score E)
Status and sustainability of fish catches (score E)
Impact of fishing method and protected, threatened and endangered species captures (score E and D)
Management and management unit (score C and D)