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What is an Orange Roughy?

An Orange Roughy is a deep-sea fish known for its bright, brick-red color and long lifespan, often reaching over 100 years. Prized for its delicate flavor, it's a popular choice among seafood lovers. However, its longevity and late maturity raise sustainability concerns. How does this impact our oceans and dinner plates? Let's examine the balance between cuisine and conservation.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The orange roughy is a deep sea dwelling ocean fish found in the South Pacific around Australia and New Zealand. In the 1970s, advanced deep sea fishing techniques made the species accessible to the commercial market, which quickly embraced the delicately flavored, firm fleshed fish. After peaking in the 1980s, fish catches began to decline, and the orange roughy almost vanished from existence before extensive management techniques brought stocks into slow recovery. It is considered to be a severely threatened fish.

Orange roughy can live to be over 100 years old, and weigh approximately 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms) at maturity. The fish are shockingly ugly, and a dull brick red in color when alive that fades to orange after death. They have protruding jaws, foreshortened bodies, and stumpy fins. Like most deep sea dwelling fish, orange roughy take a long time to grow to maturity, and are easy to threaten with overfishing. Extensive deep sea fishing for over two decades resulted in severe depletion of adult stocks. These fish do not generally breed until they reach 30 years of age.

New Zealand has numerous orange roughy fisheries.
New Zealand has numerous orange roughy fisheries.

Because of its conservation status, it is recommended that no one consume orange roughy until the fish has had an opportunity to recover from ecologically unsound fishing methods. In addition, like many dense-fleshed fishes, it accumulates a great deal of mercury and should not be eaten by pregnant women and children. Other consumers would be wise to limit their intake to two or three servings a month at maximum.

The orange roughy is commonly found in the South Pacific around the area of Australia and New Zealand.
The orange roughy is commonly found in the South Pacific around the area of Australia and New Zealand.

In addition to having dense white flesh, orange roughy also have copious amounts of oil that can be used in a variety of applications including cosmetics and nutritional supplements. Fisheries for the species have emerged in New Zealand, Australia, and Namibia. The catch peaks in the months of June through August, when the fish are spawning in dense groups.

Orange roughy should not be eaten by pregnant women.
Orange roughy should not be eaten by pregnant women.

In addition to depleting the populations of imperfectly understood deep sea fish, commercial drag net fishing is also highly damaging to the marine environment and ocean floor. Trawling disturbs marine sediment, which provides habitat and nutrition to countless species. In addition, numerous fish in addition to the target species are caught in trawling nets and thrown back, usually dead.

Orange roughy is a popular catch for the fishing industry.
Orange roughy is a popular catch for the fishing industry.

Australia and New Zealand have both embarked on conservation programs to preserve the orange roughy, and consumers should purchase fish from these sources if at all. Both programs have enforced quotas, and prosecute illegal harvest of the fish. Scientists are evaluating each fishery for viability and potential fishing potential. A total ban on the fish was pondered in the early part of the 21st century to allow the fish to recover.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon29272

I was just wondering why it's illegal to fish the shores using Talapia as bait?

tpetsch

I'm in Houston, TX, so where or which supermarket I can find to buy the orange roughy fish? Thank you.

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    • New Zealand has numerous orange roughy fisheries.
      By: Ruslan Olinchuk
      New Zealand has numerous orange roughy fisheries.
    • The orange roughy is commonly found in the South Pacific around the area of Australia and New Zealand.
      By: Tupungato
      The orange roughy is commonly found in the South Pacific around the area of Australia and New Zealand.
    • Orange roughy should not be eaten by pregnant women.
      By: DN6
      Orange roughy should not be eaten by pregnant women.
    • Orange roughy is a popular catch for the fishing industry.
      By: Fernbach Antal
      Orange roughy is a popular catch for the fishing industry.