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A fish as old as the bloody hills

Orange roughy predominantly live around the deep ocean seamounts, and plateaus just off the continental shelf, at depths from 700 to 1,500 metres.

It has one of the longest lives of all marine species - 120 to 130 years of age. It is thought that orange roughy mature and start reproducing between 23 and 32 years of age.  They have a low fecundity and produce low egg counts compared to other fish - 40,000 to 60,000 eggs.

They grow to a length of 50 cm and weigh up to 3.6 kg, but are commonly caught when they are 35-45 cm long and weigh 0.8 to 1.5 kg.

Long living deepsea fish are slow to recover from fishing.† Generally, deepsea species are depleted more rapidly and recover more slowly, if at all, than inshore fish.

Orange roughy commercial fishing quota reduced by 43 percent

19 September 2006

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton today announced reductions in commercial catch limits for orange roughy, from the start of the new fishing year on 1 October 2006.

The commercial catch limits for orange roughy in the northern North Island (ORH1) will be reduced by 43 percent to 800 tonnes per year.

The commercial limits for the Chatham Rise and southern New Zealand fishery (ORH3B) will be reduced by almost 10 percent to 11,500 tonnes.

The Minister said he is aware of the ongoing difficulties of managing the orange roughy fisheries and heíll be monitoring the fishery to ensure catch limits are set at a sustainable level.

The orange roughy decisions are part of the Ministerís annual decisions on catch limits for species in the quota management system.

Continued reduction of the quota raises questions about the sustainability of orange roughy.  It comes at a time when a moratorium is being negotiated at the United Nations for bottom trawling, the fishing practice used to catch orange roughy.

The first orange roughy catches around New Zealand were by foreign trawlers during the late 1970s. The domestic orange roughy fishery expanded very quickly from 1979, reaching a peak of 54,000 tonnes/year in 1988/89.  Sixty percent of this catch came from the Chatham Rise.


Orange roughy Hoplostethus atlanticus have the capacity to school in millions, especially around seamounts during feeding and spawning when they are targeted by commercial fishers.

Orange roughy is caught by bottom trawling, the most destructive practice on the marine environment the world has ever known.

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Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) limits for the orange roughy fishery have been set since 1981/82. The Chatham Rise orange roughy fishery TACC peaked in 1988/89 at 38,300 tonnes.

The highest catch was 32,300 tonnes in 1989, but since then catches have dropped and the area fished has expanded.

The TACC was 21,300 tonnes from 1992 to 1994, a 44 percent reduction from the 1988/89 peak.

It was reduced by 34 percent to 14,000 tonnes in 1994/95, and by 9 percent to 12,700 tonnes in 1995/96 where it has remained until the current reduction.

Since 1992 the allowable catch in the Chatham Rise orange roughy fishery has been reduced by 64 percent.

The current allowable Chatham Rise catch is 30 percent of the peak in 1988/89 of 38,300 tonnes.

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