About thirty years ago, diners around the world developed a taste for the low-fat white meat of a large pelagic fish known as a slimehead. The name was changed to orange roughy, and a delicacy was born.
Unfortunately for the orange roughy, its long lifespan (a hundred years or more) and its late arrival to sexual maturity (at 20 years or more) has made it vulnerable to overfishing. As its popularity in fine restaurants has grown, orange roughy populations have nosedived. And just this week, Australia and New Zealand (the world’s largest producer of orange roughy, while the U.S. is the largest consumer) agreed to close a large orange roughy fishery in the Southern Ocean, with managers saying they’re not sure when or if the area may ever reopen to fishing because of the damage done.
It doesn’t have to come to this. With responsible fishing techniques and sustainable quotas, rare and increasingly rare commercial fish like the roughy, bluefin tuna, Patagonian toothfish (Chilean sea bass), and more can thrive.