Hake

Merluccius merluccius

Hake by Sarah McCartney

Image | Illustration by Sarah McCartney Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Description

A predatory fish with white tasty flesh that is prized by the Spanish. Hake makes a great alternative to cod, is great battered and in Spain is traditionally cut into steaks and baked. 


Sustainability Overview

Since the introduction of a hake recovery plan in the late 1990’s, fishing effort on hake was strictly controlled and now stocks are far larger than they have been for years. Fishing effort has decreased. The majority of hake landed to Cornish ports is caught using gill nets. All vessels over 12m long are now using pingers that scare dolphins and other cetaceans away from the nets. The best choice is Marine Stewardship Council accredited Gill net caught hake. 

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When is best to eat?

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Gill Netting

Cornish Waters

Gill nets are lightweight nets made of nylon (monofilament) fishing line that are anchored to the seabed and are used to catch fish by entangling the gills.

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Demersal Trawl

Cornish vessels landing to Cornish ports

Demersal trawls are large nets that are pulled through the water with the bottom edge of the net touching the seabed. At each edge the net is pulled open by metal ‘trawl doors’. Sometimes referred to as Otter trawling.

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How we rate fish

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Cornwall Good Seafood Guide rates fish on sustainability using a scale of 1 to 5.

1, 2 and 3 are recommended, Fish to avoid are rated 5.

We use the system devised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) so our scores are comparable with the scores produced by MCS for the UK and fisheries from all around the world. For more information on scoring click here.

Sustainability Overview

Since the introduction of a hake recovery plan in the late 1990’s, fishing effort on hake was strictly controlled and now stocks are far larger than they have been for years. Fishing effort has decreased. The majority of hake landed to Cornish ports is caught using gill nets. All vessels over 12m long are now using pingers that scare dolphins and other cetaceans away from the nets. The best choice is Marine Stewardship Council accredited Gill net caught hake. 

Hake by Sarah McCartney

Biology

Hake are large predatory fish that are widely distributed in European waters over the continental shelf. Hake feed on squid and other fish (sometimes including juvenile hake). They can be found on or near the sea bed during the daytime, and at night time they move up into mid-water to feed. Hake are slow growing, deep water fish and can reach a maximum size of 180cm, weighing up to 15 kilogrammes. Females mature at 5- 6 years when they are about 50cm long and they produce large numbers of eggs each year during their peak spawning season (February and March). Due to the slow growth rate and late maturity this species is vulnerable to over fishing, but recent years have shown that stocks recover well when fishing pressure is reduced. Biological vulnerability score is relatively high; 71%. (Cheung et all 2005).

Stock Info

There was a pronounced stock decline in the 1980s, with spawning stock biomass (SSB) hitting a historical low in 2000. Following the introduction of a recovery management plan in 2004, the spawning stock biomass has been rapidly increasing over the last 5 years and steadily so for the last decade. The SSB in 2013 estimated to be record high, suggesting the stock is recovering well. However, there has been a very small percentage of larger fish (>60cm) observed in the stock since the pronounced decline in the early 1990s, which is a cause for concern. Fishing mortality has been decreasing sharply in recent years and is now equal to the MSY target. ICES advises that landings in 2014 are no more than 81,846 t (45,400 t in 2013).

Management

Hake fisheries are managed by the European Common Fisheries Policy quota system. Additionally a hake recovery plan implemented in 2004  has resulted in increased hake stocks. Cornish vessels operating outside the 12 mile limit all now are required by law to use accoustic pingers on their nets which deter dolphins and porpoises from coming near the nets.

Capture Info

Hake are caught by demersal trawls and beam trawls but the majority of landings are by targetted gill netting fisheries.  Hake net fisheries are mainly carried out in deep water outside the 6 mile limit and all netters fishing from boats over 10 meters now have to use pingers on their nets to reduce risk of cetacean by catch. The nets used have a mesh size of 4" 7/8 (124mm) and are set on the seabed. A typical hake net is 125 yards long and 32 nets are joined together to make a tier of nets. A large, offshore, modern hake netter can fish up to 6 tiers of net at a time - an astounding 21 kilometers of net. There are issues with by-catch of non target species such as sharks and rays  and seals in this fishery and more research is needed to establish the level of by catch.

For a detailed description of the Cornish Hake net fishery visit Ajax hakes website here

References

MMO landing data
Seafish 2013 Responsible sourcing guide Hake version 7 
The Net Effect. A WDCS Report for Greenpeace. Ross and Isaac (2004); The Price of Fish: A review of cetacean bycatch in fisheries in the north-east Atlantic. L Nunny (2011); ICES Advice 2012, Book 9
Project inshore pre assessment database 2013 
Sewell, J. & Hiscock, K., 2005. Effects of fishing within UK European Marine Sites:
guidance for nature conservation agencies. Report to the Countryside Council for Wales,
English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage from the Marine Biological Association.
Plymouth: Marine Biological Association. CCW Contract FC 73-03-214A. 195 pp.
ICES Hake advice June 2013
MCS Fish online
CEFAS tech Rep 147 Spawning areas 
Cheung, W.W.L., T.J. Pitcher and D. Pauly, 2005. A fuzzy logic expert system to estimate intrinsic extinction vulnerabilities of marine fishes to fishing. Biol. Conserv. 124:97-111 www.fishbase.org

 

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