1 November, 2013
Orange roughy fishing began in New Zealand on the Chatham Rise in the late 1970s, developing in other areas within our Exclusive Economic Zone over the following two decades. Firm, moist white flesh, year-round availability and a mild flavour ensured orange roughy’s popularity in New Zealand and overseas. Catches peaked in the late 1980s and as the biomass levels of various stocks were progressively fished down to target levels, catch limits have been deliberately decreased, as managers have responded to new science and our understanding of orange roughy productivity has improved. Where stocks have dropped below target levels, catches have been set at zero to maximise the rate of rebuilding.
Annual harvest strategies are now based on taking 4.5% (or less) of the adult numbers to ensure healthy and sustainable populations, leaving 21 out of 22 fish each year for the future. Several stocks have been rebuilt in size and catch limits are being increased as they do.
This new chapter in the orange roughy fishery includes application for certification by the Marine Stewardship Council for sustainability. “MSC certification is recognised around the world as the ‘gold standard’ for sustainable fishing and it is not easy to meet all of their standards, so it may take further time before it’s all signed off,” says George Clement, Chief Executive of Deepwater Group Limited.
Not only have orange roughy populations begun to rebuild, new methodologies for biomass surveys have been introduced, such as multi-frequency echo-sounders deployed at depth with synchronised underwater camera systems. These have enabled better understandings of orange roughy biomass, particularly when they are in mixed aggregations with other species.
Clement said “Scientists estimate there are more than 143,000,000 adult orange roughy within New Zealand waters and this doesn’t include the young roughy which research has demonstrated have been strongly recruiting into some fisheries in recent years. We are confident our sustainable management of orange roughy can meet the requirements of the Marine Stewardship Council’s high standards, even if further work is required”.
For more information on orange roughy, visit www.fishofthemonth.co.nz
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