Orange Roughy to finally get the protection it deserves
Humane Society International (HSI) is pleased orange roughy has finally been recommended for protection as an endangered species under Australia’s national environment laws.
Orange roughy, sold as deep sea perch, has been chronically over-fished for decades, prompting HSI to submit a nomination for its protection as an endangered species in June 2003.
The Federal Minister for the Environment, Senator Ian Campbell, has now received advice from his Department and from his Threatened Species Scientific Committee, confirming the species meets the criteria for listing as endangered and recommending its protection.
Statutory deadlines usually require a public nomination to be decided on within 15 months, but this controversial nomination has taken nearly 3 years, with the decision postponed a record four times.
It will be the first ever commercially fished species to be listed under Australia’s national environment laws and will bring an end to the fishery. HSI expects the industry responsible for the species demise to strongly resist its protection. In the past the government has found excuses not to protect other commercially valuable fish that meet the criteria such as the endangered southern bluefin tuna.
“Orange roughy can live for 150 years and is a very slow breeder. It is not used to predators and history has shown it cannot withstand exploitation from the fishing industry. Trawling for orange roughy is also extremely damaging to the ecology of the deep sea mountains it inhabits”, said Nicola Beynon, HSI’s Wildlife and Habitats spokesperson.
The nomination was open for 3 months public consultation last year and now the Minister is allowing another four weeks of public discussion before announcing his final decision.
“The Minister’s comments to the AM program this morning that we cannot allow “a species to be wiped off the face of the earth” indicate he is prepared to do the right thing and finally give this species the protection it has long deserved”, said Ms Beynon.
HSI is concerned the fishing industry has been given another four weeks to lobby against the species protection. However, the legislation does not allow the Minister to take socio-economic factors into account when deciding whether or not to protect an endangered species. HSI considers it highly improbable that the science supporting a listing is going to change in the next four weeks.
“It is high time the fishing industry accepted they cannot exploit this vulnerable species in a way that is ecologically sustainable, as is required under Australian law”, said Ms Beynon.
HSI looks forward to the Minister’s final decision to save this important species.
HSI has also nominated the Tasmanian seamounts, home of the orange roughy, for listing as a Commonwealth Heritage Site, because of their outstanding natural values.