Breeding at age 73: New details on endangered orange tree’s life cycle spark calls to limit fishing | Fishing

Ocean activists say a New Zealand fishing fleet trawling for Orange roughy in waters off Tasmania should be “turned back” in light of new data on the vulnerable species.

Orange spider is an endangered deep-sea species that can still be caught in approved fisheries under Australian environmental laws.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) manages the orange shaggy stock as if the fish are mature and reproduce at 27 to 32 years of age.

But campaigners say a new assessment of orange roughy in New Zealand suggests the age could be much higher, which could affect the ability of populations to recover after fishing.

New Zealand fisheries management assessed the populations in one of the orange roughy fisheries and found that the breeding age was “unexpectedly high”, with only 50% of the stocks spawning at 55 years of age.

The age at which 95% of the animals were breeding was 73.3 years.

Concerns arose when new Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek traveled to Lisbon for the UN Oceans Conference. Plibersek has said she wants Australia to take on a global leadership role in protecting the ocean.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society’s sustainable fisheries manager Adrian Meder said the newly released data should lead to a “precautionary measure” from the AFMA, which allows permits to fish for orange roughy in two areas off Tasmania.

New Zealand vessels have started arriving in Tasmania and the AFMA said it had granted one boat approval to fish for the species this year.

“It has real implications for the ability of these fish populations to support industrial fisheries,” Meder said.

“It means the fish are able to potentially breed a lot less in the years they’re in the ocean before we catch them.”

Meder said sustainable fishing practices typically sought to ensure that fish populations had a chance to replace themselves before they were caught.

But he said the AFMA had not incorporated the new data “in a meaningful way” into managing this season’s orange fishery.

“If the science is correct, we just invited boats and crews from New Zealand to catch these fish, causing decades of lasting damage to our diminished orange stock and our deep-sea coral reefs, and sending almost all of their catch directly to the US and Europe.” “, he said.

Sign up to receive Guardian Australia’s top stories every morning

Karli Thomas, a New Zealand-based ocean advocate with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, said deep-sea trawling endangers fish and other species, including deep-sea corals.

She said orange roughy was already a species known to be vulnerable and easily overfished.

“If you look at the state of the stocks and the science involved coming out of New Zealand, no country would allow New Zealand trawlers into their country to fish for this species,” she said.

“It will be very urgent for other stocks to be assessed as this information about the basics of a species’ life cycle has implications for everywhere they are fished.”

An AFMA spokesman warned that the data was specific to one orange rough stock on New Zealand’s east coast.

“There are often regional differences in life history characteristics of fish stocks, so the findings should not be considered as applying to all other orange roughy stocks,” the spokesperson said.

They said extensive data has been collected on Australia’s Orange roughy stocks since the 1990s and over many years it has been found that most of the fish that gathered to breed were between 20 and 40 years old.

“The life history characteristics of fish stocks are routinely reviewed and updated as necessary,” they said.

Orange roughy in Australia has been managed since 2006 as part of a stock reconstruction strategy to allow populations to recover from historical overfishing.

The populations are managed as six stocks. The two stocks considered sustainable are subject to catch limits. Directed fishing for the other four stocks is prohibited.

The AFMA spokesman said the authority “approved an application to consider one New Zealand boat as an Australian vessel to fish for Orange roughy in 2022 on the Cascade Plateau and east coast of Tasmania”.

They said it was subject to catch restrictions and would also “add to our understanding of these stocks by collecting important biological and acoustic data to inform future assessment models”.