Orange roughy are very slow-growing, long-lived fish (120-130 years). In New Zealand orange roughy are estimated to reach sexual maturity between 23 and 31 years of age, and become vulnerable to fishing at 15-20 years of age.
Spawning occurs once every year, between June and early August in several areas within the New Zealand EEZ. Spawning fish form dense aggregations at depths of 700-1000m in areas often associated with bottom features such as pinnacles and canyons. It is likely that individual orange roughy do not spawn every year and fecundity is relatively low.
Additional aggregations form outside the spawning period, presumably for feeding. Their main prey includes midwater and bottom species (prawns, fish and squid).
Orange roughy stocks within the New Zealand EEZ are managed under the Quota Management System (QMS). There are nine distinct orange roughy fisheries within the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and each is managed independently.
Commercial orange roughy fishing began in New Zealand on the Chatham Rise in the late 1970’s - early 1980’s with fisheries in other parts of the New Zealand EEZ typically starting in the mid 1980’s. Catches peaked in the late 1980’s and have decreased since, largely in response to reductions in catch limits as the biomass of the various stocks has been fished down to target levels. Over 13,000 t (greenweight) of orange roughy were landed from the New Zealand EEZ in the 2007-08 fishing year. Approximately 60% of the catch came from the East and South Chatham Rise fishery - the oldest and largest orange roughy fishery in the world.
Orange roughy quota across all fisheries was estimated to be worth $319m as at 30 September 2008. In the 2008 calendar year, 5,859 tonnes (processed weight) of orange roughy was exported realising a value of $60.8m. The majority of orange roughy processed in New Zealand is exported as frozen fillets with 69% exported to the USA and 18% to Australia. Orange roughy is also exported to China for further processing.
There is no customary non-commercial or recreational fishing for orange roughy.