Fisheries and Resources Monitoring System

Orange roughy - South East Atlantic
Marine Resource  Fact Sheet
Stock status report 2021
Orange roughy - South East Atlantic
Fact Sheet Citation  
Orange roughy
Owned bySouth East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO) – More
Related observationsLocate in inventorydisplay tree map
FAO Names: en - Orange roughy, fr - Hoplostète orange, es - Reloj anaranjado, ru - Большеголов атлантический (=берикс исландский)
Geographic extent of Orange roughy - South East Atlantic
Main Descriptors
Considered a single stock: Yes        Spatial Scale: Regional
Management unit: Yes        Reference year: 2020
Biological State and Trend
State & Trend Descriptors
Exploitation rateUncertain/Not assessedGray
Abundance levelUncertain/Not assessed

Exploration for Orange roughy in the SE Atlantic first started in South Africa prior to 1994, but the focus soon shifted to Namibia when an exploratory fishing license was given to a Namibian fishing company to search for commercial deep-water fish species. The fishery expanded, extending their fishing range into SEAFO CA in 1995. By 2008, a three-year moratorium on Orange roughy was enforced in Namibia and the fishery has not been re-opened yet. There are however some targeted fishing activities as part of the research quota allocated to the vessel that conducts the scientific survey in Namibia. Table 1 shows vessels that operated between 1995 and 2005 in the SEAFO CA. These vessels were also involved in the Alfonsino fishery during the same period.

Seven Namibian vessels (Table 1) were involved for the period that the fishery occurred in the SEAFO CA, between 1995 and 2005. These vessels were also involved in the Alfonsino fishery during the same period. The vessels employed the standard New Zealand “Arrow” rough bottom trawl with cut-away lower wings. Sweep and bridle lengths were 100 meters and 50 meters respectively. A “rock hopper” bobbin rig was used. The net had a 5-6-meter headline height when towed at 3- 3.5 knots and had an estimated wingspread of 15 meters. The cod end had a mesh of 110 mm. Each vessel spends on average 12 days at sea.

Table 1. Orange roughy: Fleet information, Division B1.
Flag ID Name Length GRT Built HP IRCS
Nam L737 Southern Aquarius 54   01/01/1974 3000 V5SH
Nam L913 Emanguluko 31 483.00 01/01/1990 1850 V5SD
Nam L892 Petersen 43 650.00 01/01/1979   V5RG
Nam L861 Will Watch 69 1587.00 01/01/1972 2116 ZMWW
Nam L918 Hurinis 37 784.00 01/01/1987 1680 V5SW
Nam L1159 Bell Ocean II 57 1899.00 01/01/1990 3342 3BLG
Nam L830 Seaflower 92 3179.75 01/01/1972 4800 V5HO

Habitat and Biology
Climatic zone: Temperate.   Bottom type: Unspecified.   Depth zone: Slope (200 m - 1000 m).   Horizontal distribution: Oceanic.   Vertical distribution: Demersal/Benthic.  

The aggregating behaviour of Orange roughy contributed to its vulnerability to overexploitation globally. Spawning aggregations of Orange roughy have been targeted in Namibia during winter. Outside the spawning seasons catches were found to be lower due to a more dispersed resource. Orange roughy are also extremely slow-growing and estimates of maximum age are in excess of 100 years.

Recruitment to the fishery is poorly understood as juveniles are not found in significant quantities. Adults have been caught in small amounts in both Angolan and South African waters, but not in large spawning aggregations as in Namibia. Orange roughy distribution also extends beyond the economic zones of the BCLME countries with good catches reported for example on the Valdivia Bank on the South Atlantic Ridge as well as on the fringes of the Agulhas Bank and Walvis Ridge in the southern Benguela.

Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) is distributed globally (Fig. 1), but predominantly in the Southern Hemisphere.

Figure 1. Global distribution of Orange roughy (Branch 2001).

Geographical Distribution
Jurisdictional distribution: Straddling between High Seas and EEZ

Fishing mainly occurred on Ewing seamount and Valdivia Bank within the SEAFO CA. These operations started in 1995 and continued until 2005, with the exception of 1998 when no fishing took place. The fishing season usually extends from January to December and catches peak in winter months (May to July), which coincides with the spawning season of Orange roughy.

Figure 2. Geographical location of fishing activities in the SEAFO CA.

Water Area Overview
Spatial Scale: Regional

Geo References
Resource Structure
Considered a single stock: Yes

In the SE Atlantic Orange roughy may most probably be regarded as a single stock (management unit). In the BCLME region that species occurs within the economic zones of each of the coastal states as well as in the SEAFO CA.


For all the fishing grounds the home port is the same as the landing port, with Walvis Bay and Lüderitz the most important ports. All available landing information is presented in Table 2. However, the bulk of Orange roughy catches were recorded within the Namibian EEZ (Table 3). A total of 1270 trawls were made landing about 290 tonnes of Orange roughy.

Table 2. Catches of Orange roughy made by Namibia, Norway and RSA.
Nation Namibia Norway South Africa
Fishing method Bottom trawl Bottom trawl Bottom trawl
Management Area B1 A1 B1
Catch details (t) Retained Discarded Retained Discarded Retained Discarded
1995 40   N/F      
1996 8   N/F      
1997 5   22   27#**  
1998 N/F N/F 12      
1999 <1   N/F N/F    
2000 75   0      
2001 94   N/F N/F    
2002 9   N/F N/F    
2003 27   N/F N/F    
2004 15   N/F N/F    
2005 18   N/F N/F    
2006 N/F N/F N/F N/F    
2007 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2008 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2009 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2010 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2011 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2012 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2013 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2014 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2015 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2016 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2017 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2018 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2019 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2020 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F

N/F = No Fishing. Blank fields = No data available. ** Sum of Catches from 1993 to 1997. # Values taken from the Japp (1999).

Table 3. Orange roughy landings (tonnes) in SEAFO CA and Namibian EEZ.
Year SEAFO CA Namibian EEZ
1994 N/F 1 872
1995 40 6 288
1996 8 17 381
1997 5 14 729
1998 N/F 10 040
1999 <1 2 699
2000 75 1 344
2001 94 874
2002 9 1 985
2003 27 1 730
2004 15 1 106
2005 18 297
2006 N/F 429
2007 N/F 288
2008 N/F 6
2009 N/F 5
2010 N/F 1
2011 N/F 1
2012 N/F 2
2013 N/F 2
2014 N/F 1
2015 N/F 6
2016 N/F 236
2017 N/F 113
2018 N/F 433
2019 N/F 226
2020 N/F 3


The annual CPUE (total annual catch divided by number of tows) are shown in Figure 3. Catch per tow was used as a proxy for CPUE estimations due to a lack of duration information. The CPUE was the highest in 1995 and thereafter decreased rapidly to reach the lowest CPUE in 1999. Since then, the CPUE seems to have stabilized at a low level until 2005 after which there are no data.

Figure 3. CPUE of Orange roughy in tonnes per trawl in Division B1 (SEAFO SC Report 2006).


Catch records for the period 1995 to 2005 are available (see Table 2 above). The number of hauls made per year are depicted in Table 4 and shows that more hauls were recorded in years when the catches were high.

Deep-sea fish surveys were conducted in the SEAFO CA by the Spanish research vessel, Vizconde de Eza (2008 -2010) (Vizconde) and the Norwegian research vessel, Dr Fridtjof Nansen (2015 and 2019) (Nansen), under the FAO’s EAF-Nansen Programme.

During 2015, the Nansen surveyed some seamounts, but only at the Ewing and Valdivia seamounts where evidence of Orange roughy presence discovered (Bergstad et al 2019). A trawl deployed on Valdivia north caught some Orange roughy (22 specimens) and camera dives at Ewing also detected Orange roughy. During the 2019 Nansen survey, no Orange roughy were detected in the surveyed area (Division D1).

The findings of the 2015 survey could only determine the presence or spatial distribution, but not the abundance of Orange roughy in the surveyed areas.

Table 4. The total number of sets from which Orange roughy catches were derived for the period 1995-2005.
1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
20 223 188 0 16 327 295 40 63 46 61

Overall Assessment Results

Since there is no fishery in recent years or any other independent data available within the SEAFO CA, no assessment can be done at the moment.

Scientific Advice

SC considered available data on Orange roughy since the inception of the fisheries in SEAFO CA.

There is no fishery data available since 2005 for Orange roughy within the SEAFO CA, as a result SC cannot conduct stock assessment of the Orange roughy stock within the Convention Area. Historically, most of the catches were made in Division B1. Considering that the TACs set for Orange Roughy under CM-TAC-01 (2020) is reviewed every two years, and that the last review was done in 2018 for the period from 2019 – 2020. No assessment was conducted in 2020 due to the impact of the Covid 19 worldwide pandemic. The TAC as set for 2019-2020 was rolled over to 2021.

There is currently zero tonnes allocation (moratorium) with a 4 tonnes bycatch allowance in Division B1, 50 tonnes in the remainder of the SEAFO CA, subject to exploratory fishing protocols.

Management unit: Yes

Management Advice

For 2021, the SC recommends that a research quota is set for a pre-planned research survey inside Division B1, to be conducted with a suitable commercial vessel. A task force has been established to draft a survey proposal to be presented to the Commission for approval.

A harvest control rule shall be developed for Orange roughy in the future as data becomes available.

The annual catch and set TAC outside the B1 are shown in Figure 4. There was no landing recorded since 2005.

Figure 4. Orange roughy catches and set TAC outside the B1 since 2005.

Source of information
South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO). Personal Communication. August 2021.
SC-SEAFO-2019. Report of the 15th Annual Meeting of the SEAFO Scientific Committee. 2019. Click to open
SC-SEAFO-2017. Report of the 13th Annual Meeting of the SEAFO Scientific Committee. 2017. Click to open
SC-SEAFO-2016. Report of the 12th Annual Meeting of the SEAFO Scientific Committee. 2016. Click to open
SEAFO “Report of SEAFO Scientific Committee.” 2006.
Boyer, D.C., C.H. Kirchner, M.K. McAllister, A. Staby and B.I. Staalesen “The Orange Roughy Fishery of Namibia: Lessons to be learned about managing a developing Fishery. South African Journal of Marine Science, 23, 205-221.” 2001.
Branch, T.A. “A Review of Orange Roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) Fisheries, Estimation Methods, Biology and Stock Structure. Payne, A. I. L., S.C. Pillar & R.J.M. Crawford, eds. A Decade of Namibian Fisheries Science. South African Journal of Marine Science. 23:181 - 203.” 2001.
Anon “Social economic studies. Deepfishman. Case Study 1A Report. Namibian Orange Roughy. Institute of Economics Studies. University of Iceland.” 2010.
Anon “Capricon Fisheries Monitoring. State of Stock Review Report No. 2. In: Japp D.W., M.G. Purves and S. Wilkinson, Status of the Fishery Resources in the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem. Cape Town.” 2011.
Anon “Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. State of the Resource TAC recommendations report; Orange roughy. Namibia.” 2008.
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