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Common Oceans - A partnership for sustainability in the ABNJ

Is orange roughy still a “fish to avoid”?

Global review of orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus), their fisheries, biology and management out now

18 December 2018

As a long-lived, deep-water species that aggregates in predictable locations, orange roughy is particularly vulnerable to fishing. After only a few years of operations, there was a rapid collapse of most orange roughy fisheries and they became one of the leading examples of overfishing by the industry due to poor fisheries management. As a result, orange roughy was labelled as a "fish to avoid".

In December 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published a Global review of orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus), their fisheries, biology and management, in an effort to provide a range of stakeholders and interested parties with an understanding of orange roughy fisheries around the world. The publication was developed with guidance from 13 subject experts who attended the FAO workshop on the Science in Support of Management of the Fisheries for Orange Roughy held in New Zealand in 2016 as part of the FAO Deep-sea Fisheries Programme, which supports the implementation of the International Guidelines for the Management of Deep-sea Fisheries in the High Seas.

The review covers historical aspects of the regional development of orange roughy fisheries, and their biology, stock assessment, ecosystem interactions, and key management issues. Recent developments in science and approaches to management are specifically highlighted with respect to future management of sustainable deep-water orange roughy fisheries.

Drawing on improved global experiences and practices for fisheries management, results of the review highlight that greater knowledge, improved technology, better approaches to modelling population dynamics in orange roughy, and a more considered and robust approach to setting up the management framework (harvest strategy, management strategy evaluation, appropriately estimated limit and target reference points or ranges, and effective harvest control rules), provides a different paradigm.

While there is still considerable discussion on the sustainability of deep-water fisheries generally, what is clear is that sustainable orange roughy fisheries are achievable. This review describes how, by making the right choices and employing the best science available, there are now some demonstrably sustainable orange roughy fisheries.

These outcomes address key issues identified in relation to the management of deep-sea fisheries in the areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), and directly contributed to the goal and objectives of Common Oceans ABNJ Deep Seas Project, funded by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by FAO and UN Environment. The partnership brings together a broad range of partners, including regional fisheries bodies responsible for the management of deep-sea fisheries, fishing industry partners, and international organizations to achieve sustainable fisheries management and biodiversity conservation of deep-sea living resources in the ABNJ.

Access the full PDF version of the document here.

Global Environment Facility (GEF)
UN Environment