Sustain the Sea: The Orange Roughy Mitts

Welcome to the first design from my new series collection, Sustain the Sea!!

Orange Roughy Mitts

The Orange Roughy Fingerless Gloves.

This pattern is a mid-length fingerless glove.  I have selected a ‘scale’ pattern to highlight its fishy tribute, with the seed stitch thumb further hinting at marine origins.  The stretchy bind and ribbing represents fins.  The colour is that of the orange roughy fish.

Full detail

These gloves are knitted to a tight gauge to prevent stretching during wear.  They fit the arm like a second skin, and will keep you nice and snug on those crisp autumn and winter mornings.

Sizing:  One size.  Fits the average woman.  Approx 25cm/10″ long and 18cm/7″ around before wear.  Worn with between 0 – 2″ negative ease.

You need:  70g of high twist wool sock yarn.  For this sample, I have used Fibre Alive Merino Mania in a one-off colourway, wonderfully named “Orange Roughy”. An available alternative in the exact same colour and style of yarn is Knitsch 100% New Zealand merino sock yarn in Charlemange.

Other suitable alternatives available overseas include in the US, Koigu KPPM, Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, or in the UK, high-twist BFL sock yarn or the merino/nylon/ stellina sparkle 4 ply such as the ones brought in to New Zealand by Doe Arnot). Any yarns with the same sock weight, with high wool content and in high twist spin will be suitable to get the same effect as you see above.  Wool is important for its stretch, and the high twist gives the “scales” definition.

Needles:  2.25mm (US1) DPNs

Gauge:  10 sts x 14 rows to 2.5cm / 1″ in scale stitch pattern

Skill level:  Familiarity with knitting in the round and ability to read charts would be useful.

Download here: Free pattern: Orange Roughy Fingerless Gloves or from Ravelry.  In return, I ask that you ‘pay me’ by buying “good choice” fish when you next decide to have a fish dinner. 🙂

Orange Roughy Mitts

My thanks to the oldest boy for his fantastic photography at Makara Beach.

About the orange roughy

I have chosen to tribute the orange roughy to begin this series.  This fish heads the “do not eat” and “worst choice” list on all “Best Fish Guide” lists that are currently produced by any marine conservation organisation.  In fact, it is arguable that this fish should be on the menu at all as there is no truly sustainable way of catching this fish.

The orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) is a bright red, deep sea fish.  Its colour fades to a light, pinkish orange after death.  It is part of the slimehead family, and also known in other countries as deepsea perch, sea perch, red roughy, hoplostete orange, granatbarsch, pesce arancio, beryx de nouvelle-zelande, or rosy soldierfish (Wikipedia).

New Zealand and Australian orange roughy stocks were discovered in the 1970’s.  Since then, although quotas have been reduced in recent years, and several fishery areas closed due to over-fishing, most populations of orange roughy stocks still open to fishing are now only one-fifth of their original unfished size in the 1970’s. In fact, orange roughy in Australia is listed as “Conservation Dependent” and protected under national environmental law. (Australian Marine Conservation Society)

The orange roughy is extremely long-lived – as far as we know, it can live up to 150 years.  The fish are caught around sea mounts using bottom-trawling as they congregate to spawn or feed.  Most caught fish are around 30 – 40 cm long (their size at approx. 20 – 30 years of age) although they can grow to twice this size.  Very little is known about orange roughy reproductive habits.  It is likely that individual orange roughy do not spawn every year once they reach maturity at 20+ years, and when they do, the fish release less eggs than other species.

In addition to the obvious consequences of catching a slow growing, low-fertility fish as it is in the process of reproducing, bottom trawling destroys sea floor species assemblages and fragile seamount habitats, where the fish are found.  It effectively bulldozes the sea floor demolishing black corals, lace corals, coral trees, colourful sponge fields and long-lived bryozoans, some aged at over 500 years old (Forest & Bird). Deep water sharks and other non-target fish species are also caught.  Endangered seabird and sea lion by catch has also been reported.   Little is known about deep sea environments.  What harm are we causing besides the obvious destruction?  What are we doing to the deep sea eco-system by removing this important part of the food chain?

Due to its long life, the orange roughy contains high levels of mercury in its flesh.  It is also very low in omega-3 fatty-acids, making this fish a much less nutritionally suitable fish for human consumption than other species.

Current statistic indicate that orange roughy is mostly exported to the USA (69%) and Australia (18%), with some to the UK, Europe and China. Orange roughy is also sold in New Zealand.

Although quotas exist for this fish, it is admitted that it is unknown whether the levels permitted by the quotas are sustainable.  Statistics indicate that once exploited, orange roughy populations have not recovered.

After reading the facts, I believe that fishing for orange roughy is undoubtedly not sustainable in any form.

Please do not eat orange roughy.


Forest & Bird Best fish guide

Current Fisheries information

NZ Fisheries Site – the Orange Roughy

Wikipedia – the Orange Roughy

Mar-Eco – the Orange Roughy

Greenpeace – the Orange Roughy

Australian Marine Conservation Society Sustainable Seafood Guide

Blue Ocean Institute – Species Score Card

26 thoughts on “Sustain the Sea: The Orange Roughy Mitts

  1. I love the fish scale effect you’ve done on the gloves and great color!
    Keep up the good work of highlighting the plight of the sea aand eventually the earth a as a whole.

  2. Thank you for the informative post and references. Looking up for pictures of the fish, I came across this article, mainly about the Orange Roughy, sustainability and greenwash – an interesting read:

    It’s really annoying, when one is trying to eat sustainable fish (or meat), that producers willingly give false information just to sell. Bottom line: one cannot really trust just the product package (it’s simple marketing) and often is necessary to read more from reliable independent sources.

    Thank you for this wonderful initiative 🙂

    1. Ah… thanks for the link to that site! That article made me so mad. I’m really glad that he pointed out the facts. That is the problem with a lot of the so-called “sustainable” industry these days. Hence my references to “true sustainability”. It should be illegal to lie like that.

      1. Yes, it should be illegal. I believe that in some countries there is actually some regulation against mis-informing labelling. Though, it would request some consumer, organisation or watch dog to take action upon it – which is not exactly easy.
        In the USA there is a field organisation (Centre for Biological Diversity) who is doing an excellent work tackling biodiversity and animal safeguard:
        (among other initiatives, they have a lot about oceans and water environments, not to mention wolves etc)

  3. Great mitts and an even better cause! I work as a fisheries biologist and it is amazing the amount that we DON’T know about such species because they are so difficult to study and it’s appalling how quickly they can disappear before we get the chance to understand them.

  4. I’ve not eaten or bought Orange Roughy since I was a kid. I’ll have to look up the fish I do occasionally eat which are Hoki, Terakihi, Gurnard and Sole; used to eat Flounder too, but haven’t seen that recently which I suspect means it’s also on the do-not-eat list.

      1. I noticed that, also wondering if the scallops my husband buys at the local fish and chippie are the sustainable ones or the ones in the red. So hard to know; I think maybe farmed fish might be the way to go, but even they have an impact on the environment!

  5. Sonya work! I have tried to read through best/worst fish lists before, and found it horribly depressing. Minimum age/size less than reproductive age for some, which seems impossibly short-sighted. I’m looking forward to read more of what you have to say about this.

    Cute mitts too!

  6. Wow, I did not know that Orange Roughy were so old – or could live so long! Pleased to say I’ve never eaten it, never will. Love your pattern and the great idea behind your campaign too!

  7. Lovely pattern & very educational post. I’m happy to be a part of your campaign by downloading your pattern. It would be fun to see what everybody knits. Thanks.

  8. thank you!

    your pattern is beautiful, both it & the colour pays homage to the fish!
    just yesterday i was looking for a nz wool in a colour that is similar to the underside of kaka wing & found charlamagne. it would look wonderful as an orange roughy i think 😉

    keep up the good work

  9. A beautiful pattern and a very informative post… I’ve never had orange roughy and now (thanks to your post) I will ensure that I don’t eat it. Thank you for the links as well – I shall go check them out now! Good on you for your passion and dedication to this cause!

  10. I had no idea that this fish even existed. But I think that means that I need to keep a better eye on what kinds of fish are provided at our markets.

    I think your pattern looks lovely. I instantly though “fish” when I saw it.

  11. We don’t eat orange roughy either, though it is VERY tasty. I love your mitts. I’m already part way thru some mitts actually, my first. If they go well I can make yours as well!

  12. A lovely pattern – thank you for your generosity yet again! Very interesting comments about the Orange Roughy. I must admit I was rather ignorant of the plight of this interesting fish and it will definitely not be on our family’s menu in the future. I do think it has been many years since we have eaten any, though, thank goodness.

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