Orange Roughy, Hoplostethus atlanticus Collett 1889

Other Names: Deepsea Perch, Deep-sea Perch, Orange Ruff, Red Roughy, Sea Perch

An adult Orange Roughy, Hoplostethus atlanticus, collected during the 2003 NORFANZ Expedition to survey seamount chains in the Tasman Sea. Source: Robin McPhee / NORFANZ Founding Parties. License: All rights reserved


A large reddish-orange roughy with a black membrane inside the mouth and gill chambers, and pale orange fins.

Orange Roughy are long-lived, slow-growing and late to mature. Following historic overfishing, an Orange Roughy conservation program was developed to enable Australian stocks to recover.

Footage of the secret lives of Orange Roughy filmed nearly 900 metres below the ocean surface, captured on moored underwater cameras by NIWA on the north Chatham Rise, east of New Zealand.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray & Martin F. Gomon, Hoplostethus atlanticus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 May 2024,

Orange Roughy, Hoplostethus atlanticus Collett 1889

More Info


Widespread - found around southern and south-eastern Australia and New Zealand, in the Western Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and in the Eastern Pacific Ocean off Chile.

In Australian waters, Orange Roughy occur from central New South Wales, through to southwestern Australia, including Tasmania. They are also found around seamounts and ridges south of Australia and on the South Tasman and Lord Howe rises, in depths of 500-1400 m.

The species forms dense spawning and feeding aggregations around seamounts, ridges, canyons and plateaus - mostly in association with deep-sea corals in water temperatures of 4-7ºC.


Meristic features: Dorsal-fin VI, 15-18; Anal-fin III, 10-11 (usually 11); Pectoral fin 17-20; Caudal fin 19; Pelvic fin I, 6; Lateral line scales 27-30.

Body depth 37–45% SL; eye diameter 26–33% HL; bony ridges between mucous cavities thin and delicate; cavities covered by thin skin; scales small, thin, ctenoid, weakly attached; 19–25 rather small scutes along belly.


Reddish-orange, membrane inside the mouth and gill chambers black, fins pale orange.


Carnivore - feeds on mesopelagic and benthopelagic prawns, fishes and squid, and occasionally on other crustaceans such as mysids and amphipods.


Orange Roughy are very long-lived, very slow to mature and have low fecundity relative to other bony fishes. Ageing studies show that they do not mature until their mid-20s to mid-30s, and may grow to 150 years of age.

Although widespread, Orange Roughy migrate hundreds of kilometres to form spawning aggregations over seamounts between June and August in the Southern Hemisphere. They are synchronous spawners, and form dense spawning and feeding aggregations.


Orange Roughy have been the focus of large commercial fisheries off southern and southeastern Australia, and around New Zealand where the largest fishery occurs. Smaller fisheries have also been established in Namibia, the northeast Atlantic, the South Indian Ocean and off Chile.

In Australia, the fishery took off after the 1989 discovery of the major Orange Roughy spawning and summer fishing grounds off southern Australia.

In 1990, more than 50,000 tonnes of Orange Roughy was landed in the Australian South East Trawl Fishery. Maximum catches per trawl reached 60 tonnes. In just over a decade, however, Orange Roughy stocks had collapsed due to overfishing.

Orange Roughy populations worldwide are threatened by overfishing. Major fishing restrictions are now in place in Australia, and the species has been declared  Conservation Dependent under Australia's EPBC Act.

The soft, moist, white flesh withstands freezing well, making it very popular. However the fillets must be deep skinned to remove both the skin and the distinctive layer of oil that may cause diarrhoea.


EPBC Act 1999 : Conservation Dependent

Due to the historical level of depletion and the biology of Orange Roughy, the rebuilding of these stocks will take some years.

In 2006, Orange Roughy were listed as conservation dependent in Australian waters, with most stocks reported to be well below 20% of estimated pre-fishing equilibrium biomass and closed to targeted fishing. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) implemented the Orange Roughy Conservation Program to rebuild stocks to sustainable levels. Under the program Orange Roughy is managed using a number of separate zones. Targeting Orange Roughy is prohibited in most zones with only very low levels of incidental and unavoidable catch allowed.

In the Cascade Plateau zone (south west of Tasmania) fishing for Orange Roughy has been allowed for some years as the stock has been maintained at a healthy 60 + per cent of the original stock.

In the Commonwealth trawl sector, which targets popular table fish like Blue Grenadier, Tiger Flathead and Pink Ling, trawling below 700m is currently is prohibited to enable Orange Roughy to rebuild. (AFMA 2012)

Kloser et al. (2015) found positive signs of a population recovery that include an increased biomass at the spawning sites since fishing ceased, a large change in the age structure of the population and a 74% increase in the reproductive potential of females since 1987.

Species Citation

Hoplostethus atlanticus Collett, 1889, Bull. Soc. Zool., France, 14: 306. Type locality: off Azores.


Dianne J. Bray & Martin F. Gomon


Orange Roughy, Hoplostethus atlanticus Collett 1889


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37255009

Behaviour:Aggregates around seamounts

Conservation:EPBC Act Conservation Dependent

Depth:500-1400 m

Fishing:Commercially fished

Habitat:Benthopelagic, bathypelagic

Max Size:75 cm; 7 kg

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map