Bottom trawling for orange roughies to get green light?

By Dave Armstrong - 25 Oct 2016 8:25:0 GMT
Bottom trawling for orange roughies to get green light?

The roughy, slimehead (the US didn’t like that name,) or “deep-sea perch” is in trouble. Having been preserved to some extent for a while, some industrial-scale New Zealand fisheries seem bound to be opened for massive over-fishing. We’ve seen this with pelagic tuna and cod and the rest, but for a deep-sea fish, there are literally heavy implications for our bottom-livers.Orange roughy image; Credit: © Alex Rogers

The Marine Stewardship Council are a group of oddbods meeting in London yesterday and today. With a lot on their plate, mainly fish, one case is being brought to our notice because of the extreme importance of their decision.

The red or orange roughy has suffered badly in the Pacific especially, despite living far away as a typical deep-sea species of slimehead. These animals live long and prosper in the typical coral reef that ekes an existence near the bottom of the sea. Trawling for this tasty morsel, involves heavy gear (nets and weights) to destroy the reefs and create mayhem among the creature sin this habitat. Commercial interest is obviously involved in any decision to allow this to continue even longer, but the MSC seem primed to pass certification for this destruction in New Zealand waters.

New Zealand and Australia are already the sites of extreme overfishing since an American market opened up in the 1970s, followed currently by a Chinese market. At the moment (2014 figures), New Zealand catches total 8,500 tonnes, despite the fish being down to 10% of its original population in the 70s. 3 of the 4 fisheries there are proposed for certification despite a glaringly-obvious sustainability problem.

This problem revolves around this species of deep-sea fish and its relatives and the loss of habitat for all from bottom fishing.The fish grows slowly, and sometimes not at all in schools that feed when they can around sea-munts and canyons. Living in this way to 150 years-old, we are basically eating pensioners X2. The roughie is a slimehead that, as such, breeds very slowly, swims slowly, and becomes inactive for periods when fish and squid prey are unavailable The roughy aggregates in (formerly) large, probably single-sex schools at a density of 2.5 animals/m2. They breed when they are <20 years old, at a length of 30.5cm (12”), having migrated for great distances to spawning grounds in June and July.

The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), which represents over 70 non-governmental organisations, together with Bloom, a French association, Greenpeace New Zealand and ECO, a New Zealand environmental group, Greenpeace and WWF are strongly opposed to the decision of a group in the MSC to assume these fisheries are at all sustainable. The UN itself has declared that all bottom fisheries must be restrained from their destructive practices, simply because of the unappreciated amount of damage that has been done. Against this opposition, you can guess the situation in London today. The MSC session is closed to the public! You can imagine that is because of the traditional fisher-folk language being bandied about! (or, more likely, the total lack of transparency.)