Orange Roughy is the poster child of unsustainable fishing in Australia, one that most consumers now know that they are meant to avoid. However, persistent mislabelling by fishmongers (esp as 'Deep Sea Perch') may mislead people into unwillingly purchasing this fish. Orange Roughy became popular when stocks were first found by trawlers in the late 1970's. Instantly valued for their soft, moist white flesh and mild taste, stocks crashed rapidly. Stocks are now recovering, and no longer considered subject to overfishing. However, despite very careful management practices being enacted, the biology of this species means that it will be some time before stocks recover. It is a deep sea species that may live for up to 150 years. Orange Roughy are found in Deep Sea fisheries around seamounts along the south of Australia. They have been one of the primary species caught in the SE Fishery since the 80's. Orange Roughy was the first commercially harvested fish to be placed on Australia's EPBC List, with a rating of 'conservation dependent'. Also imported from NZ, where stocks face the same problems as Australia.
The why and how of sustainability
In 2014, Commonwealth stock assessments were amended and Orange Roughy listed as both "Not Overfished' and 'Not Subject to Overfishing'. Orange Roughy is listed as 'Conservation Dependent' on the EPBC Act List of Threatened Species. AMCS lists Orange Roughy as SAY NO. Forest & Bird (NZ) rank Orange Roughy E (RED - AVOID) in their Best Fish Guide. Orange Roughy has the worst ecological ranking of any commercial fishery in the Best Fish Guide As a long lived, deep water species Orange Roughy is extremely vulnerable to overfishing. Stocks may not recover from massive overfishing. Bottom trawling is damaging to marine ecosystems and results in large quantities of bycatch, including vulnerable populations of deepwater sharks.
WHITING has moist, soft white flesh with a delicate flavour. A suitable and sustainable alternative to Orange Roughy when Pan Frying, coating and Deepfrying (either in a crumb or batter) or Grilling.
BREAM has sweet, delicate white flesh that suits gentle cooking methods, remaining moist and succulent. Use as an alternative to Orange Roughy when Poaching, Steaming, or Panfrying.
When Pan Frying or Grilling, the firm white flesh of Gurnard can be used as an alternative to that of Orange Roughy. Gurnard flesh can be slightly drier than that of Orange Roughy, so cook with care on a lower heat to prevent this.