Letter from the Ranger - Oceana USA
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September 2, 2009

Letter from the Ranger

The coordinator of the Ranger expedition, Ricardo Aguilar (a.ka. “Riki”), sent this message out to his Oceana colleagues after he saw a live orange roughy in the wild for the first time in his life. – Emily

UPDATE: Riki wrote in with this correction:

Sorry, sorry, sorry but I made a mistake. After watching again the video tapes, I have realize that I have mistaken the identification. Yes, all of them are peces reloj (Roughies and slimheads) but the big one that I though was an orange roughy, it is a Darwin’s slimhead or Darwin roughy. These two species are almost identical.

Then, the two species we found are the Mediterranean silver roughy (Hoplostethus mediterraneus) and the Darwin’s slimhead (Gephyroberyx darwinii).

Although it is a lttle bit of a dissapointment, this species is also very interesting an it is also being wiped out from the seas. Many fisheries targetting orange roughy also catch this species. It is not so old as the orange roughy, but it can live up to 60 years.


Hi everybody: As you know, we are in the Canary Islands surveying the communities and species of the sea bed. I was very excited when, several days ago, we found the big cup glass sponges in the southwest of Lanzarote Island, the first time this species has been found in this archipelago. But now I am even more excited. For the first time in my life I have seen an orange roughy alive. We found several specimens of orange roughy in the southwest of Gran Canary Island, below 200 metres deep. I have been talking about the orange roughy (called pez reloj anaranjado in Spanish) for fifteen years, but I had never seen a live specimen. This fish has become a symbol of fisheries destruction because it can live up to 150 years, reaching sexual maturity at 30-35 years. As a result, orange roughy is very vulnerable to overexploitation, and we have asked to close these fisheries worldwide many times. There are three species of orange roughy that can be found in this area, the Mediterranean orange roughy, the African orange roughy or black slimehead and the Atlantic orange roughy. This last species is the one with the largest lifespan and it is the same that it is being overexploited not only in the Atlantic but also in New Zealand and many other areas. The finding yesterday was so important because we saw two species of orange roughy, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The Mediterranean was already known from these waters, but the Atlantic could be (as far as I know) the first reference of this species in the Canary Islands. Perhaps some of you cannot understand what this means, or feel what I feel about this. But the orange roughy for me is like the panda bear for terrestrial ecologists. It is not only a rare species, but a symbol of the fight against the irrational use of natural resources. I hope I can pass onto you a little bit of my happiness because of this, and a little bit more strength to keep fighting and make you part of all this work. All the best, Riki