Orange roughy certification mocks sustainability

One of New Zealand’s worst fisheries has been given a sustainability accreditation by the Marine Stewardship Council, Forest & Bird has warned.

“Any certification scheme that calls the orange roughy fishery sustainable has lost all credibility,” says Katrina Goddard, lead researcher for the Best Fish Guide. “Orange roughy are a long lived (120-130 years), late breeding fish vulnerable to overfishing.”

“Bottom trawling for orange roughy destroys seafloor and seamount habitats and the fishery kills seabirds, including Salvin’s, Chatham Islands and white-capped albatross.”

It also destroys sensitive habitats like endangered, threatened or protected corals and sponges. In the 2014-15 fishing year, observers on the deepwater vessels that bottom trawl orange roughy (across all stocks) reported the landing of over 4.3 tonnes of corals and over 12.6 tonnes of sponges. Observer coverage is only 22.5% of the entire deepwater fishery, so most corals and sponges in nets were likely to have been unreported.

Some of these corals destroyed by the orange roughy fishery have been aged at over 500 years old. “It’s like dragging a huge net through native forest smashing 500 year old kauri to catch kiwi. If the orange roughy fishery occurred on land it would have been banned by now,” says Ms Goddard.

“The certification decision by the Marine Stewardship Council is telling retailers and consumers that buying orange roughy with the MSC tick may contribute to habitat destruction including 500 year old corals.”

“Forest & Bird recently assessed orange roughy for its Best Fish Guide and it came out as one of the worst species. This was based on the most recent information from the Ministry for Primary Industries.”

Forest & Bird is a partner in the Global Seafood Rating Alliance, and will be working with Alliance partners to advise overseas retailers of the reasons why orange roughy should remain on the ‘avoid’ list.

Forest & Bird’s full assessment of the sustainability of orange roughy can be accessed here: