Hake

The fishery

Hake, also known as Pacific Whiting, are a medium sized silver-grey fish. Hake have delicate and soft white-flesh and a mild taste. They are the most abundant fish resource in British Columbia, reproducing in massive numbers. Hake are harvested by mid-water trawlers off the west coast of Vancouver Island. The large majority of the catch is exported to international markets around the world, predominantly in Eastern Europe.

The Hake industry in BC is co-managed by the Groundfish Research and Conservation Society and Department of Fisheries. Hake remains to be one of the most important groundfish species from BC due to its abundance and high volume catch. Hake harvesting, processing, and exporting play a huge roll in the socio-economic wellbeing of BC. Since Hake are harvested in offshore transborder waters, the Canadian Hake industry works very closely with the National Marine Fisheries Service in the United States to jointly manage the fishery and determine the catch volume each year.

About

Pacific Hake are a short-lived bountiful groundfish species. They are highly migratory and found along the coast from California to Alaska. Hake can be found inshore around the major inlets and bays such as Strait or Georgia in BC. However, the majority of the stock are found in offshore waters deep in the open ocean off the West Coast. Hake are night-time predators that move up the water column to feed and migrate back down during the day to form large schools. Hake feed on herring, shrimp, and crustaceans.

Hake can live up for up to 20 years, female Hake reach maturity at three or four and males mature around three years. In BC, the Hake spawn typically occurs from March through May, peaking in late April. Juveniles reside in shallow coastal waters and bays and move to deeper waters as they get older. They can be found from the surface of the ocean to depts of 1000 m. Hake have a specific enzyme in their flesh that can get released when they die, the chemical reaction rapidly deteriorates the flesh. The fish can turn soft and mushy very quickly, therefore, the fish must be headed, gutted, and flash frozen to maintain the quality after the harvest. Frozen-at-sea Hake is exported to countries around the world including the Ukraine, China, and South Africa.

The harvest

Hake are semi-pelagic species harvested using mid-water trawls. During this harvest method, a cone-shaped net drags behind the boat in mid-water. Midwater trawl boats can range in size, but many are large factory fishing vessels. They fish at sea for long periods of time. Midwater trawling has a low impact on the marine environment – it has no contact with the sea floor. Trawl nets are commercially designed to harvest target species, the size of the mesh is large enough for undersized catch to swim out of the net. Harvesters will locate large schools of Hake and deploy their nets at the target depth in the water. Rockfish are the largest bycatch in the Hake fishery, however, both species are part of the Integrated Groundfish Management plan. Under this integrated plan, there is a specific amount of bycatch included in each target fishery. Therefore, Hake harvesters are permitted to retain a specific quota of Rockfish each season on top of their Hake catch.

The Hake fishery is strictly managed and has 100% at-sea monitoring and 100% dockside monitoring. Under these monitoring programs, vessel masters must document every fish caught, all fishing details, and any lost or found fishing gear. These programs are implemented by third-party service providers, but fully funded by the Hake industry. These management measures ensure that the industry does not harvest more than the predetermined annual catch quota.

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Sustainability

The Hake industry his strict management measures in place to ensure sustainability and collects annual research to understand the stock status of Hake. The fishery is limited entry – only individuals with a licence can commercially harvest Hake in BC. Each licence holder is allotted a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the fishing season. The fishery is managed by an international agreement between the governments of Canada and the United States. A joint management committee recommends the annual Total Allowable Catch (TAC), while the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in the U.S. and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in Canada are responsible for domestic management of their country’s fisheries.

Hake vessels are required to have a government-designated observer on board or a video-based, electronic monitoring system from a government-approved service provider to record vessel location and catch. Both fish that are retained and fish that are released back into the water must be recorded. Vessels can only offload at approved landing ports and all landings are monitored by a government-designated dockside observer. The catch is weighed and validated to ensure that the licence holder does not exceed their Total Allowable Catch for the season.

When

The groundfish season begins on February 21st and ends on February 20th of the following year. Hake fishing typically takes place from March to December each year. Hake crews fish far offshore harvesting large volumes of fish. Fish are frozen-at-sea to maintain their quality.

When

The groundfish season begins on February 21st and ends on February 20th of the following year. Hake fishing typically takes place from March to December each year. Hake crews fish far offshore harvesting large volumes of fish. Fish are frozen-at-sea to maintain their quality.

Where

Hake are harvested in the offshore transborder waters off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Mid-water trawler vessels are equipped to harvest Hake in large volumes.

The market

Although Hake are the most abundant fish stock in BC, it is not consumed by the local market. The local awareness for Hake is relatively low, so the large majority is exported to markets around the world. Frozen-at-sea Hake are exported in very large volumes. The main markets for Pacific Hake are in Eastern Europe, particularly the Ukraine. However, China is a large growing market for the Hake industry as well.

Hake can be exported in a variety of product forms such as Individually Quick frozen, Block Hake with Head and Tails removed, or Blocks whole Hake. Hake has a similar to taste to cod, but the flesh is softer. Hake is great for soups or stews, it can also be pan fried.