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The term hake refers to fish in either of:
Hake fish comes from the same order (Gadiformes) as cod and haddock. It is a small fish of averaging 1 to 8 lb in weight, but which has been known to grow up to 60 lbs. Hake can grow up to 1 metre in length and their lifespan can be around 14 years. They live in waters ranging in depth from 200 to 350 m. Hake species stay in deep sea water during the day and come to the middle depths during the night. They are undiscerning predators that feed on species found near or on the bottom of the sea. The male and female hake fish look almost the same and are not easily differentiated.
After spawning, the hake eggs float on the surface of the sea where the larvae develop. After a certain period of time, the baby hake then migrate to the bottom of the sea, preferring depths of less than 200 m.
A total of 12 hake fish species are known in the family Merlucciidae:
Not all hake species are viewed as commercially important, but the deep-water and shallow-water hakes are known to grow rapidly and make up the majority of harvested species.
The demand for hake has been conventionally the most in Europe. Hake has been primarily divided into three principal levels which are fresh hake fish, frozen hake fish and frozen hake fillet. The fresh hake fish is mainly supplied by European production and imports. Frozen hake fish and frozen hake fillet are effectively supplied by imports and European processing companies.
Spain has been recorded as having the highest consumption of hake fish as compared to other European countries, with a yearly consumption of 6 kg/person. Although the consumption of hake and other fish has declined in Spain during the last decade, hake still accounts for about 1/3 of the total fish consumed in Spain. The total hake consumption in Spain is around one half of the total European hake fish consumption. Other countries which follow are; Portugal, France and Italy.
In Spain, fresh hake fish are mostly purchased by restaurants through retailers. Nonetheless, processed hake products are distributed by hake fish wholesalers. Fishmongers, public markets and hypermarkets sell all kind of hake fish available. It can be frozen hake fillet, hake fillet skin-on, and hake fillet skin-ff or hake h&g.
In France, most fish are generally purchased in Hypermarkets but for hake fish, it is an exception. Only 50% of sales represent the whole market. In fact, due to lack of European hake fish, French wholesalers purchase fresh hake from external countries such as Argentina and Namibia which are then directly exported to Spain. Fresh hake fish is mostly exported to Spain.
In Italy most hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, hypermarkets and institutions sector plays an important role in seafood consumption. However, frozen hake fillet are mostly purchased by retailers and wholesalers which are then sold in Supermarkets and hypermarkets. Restaurants and hotels are the primary location for seafood consumption. Statistic has shown that household purchases of fresh hake fillet are higher than others.
Hake fish is sold in different types such as frozen, fillets or steaks, fresh, smoked or salted. When buying hake fillet or any other type of hake fish products, consumers need to purchase hake with white flesh that is free of signs of dryness, grayness or browning. It should have a seawater fresh smell.
The main catching method of deep-water hake is primarily trawling, and shallow-water hake is mostly caught by inshore trawl and longlining. Hake fish are mostly found in the Southwest Atlantic (Argentina and Uruguay), Southeast Pacific (Chile and Peru), Southeast Atlantic (Namibia and South Africa), Southwest Pacific (New Zealand), and Mediterranean and Black Sea (Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece and France).
Due to over-exploitation, the commercial catch of Argentinean hake fish has declined drastically. About 80% of adult hake has apparently disappeared from the Argentinean Sea. It has been reported that Argentinean hake will not actually disappear from the sea but that the stock will be so low that profitability will be almost zero and it will be ineffective for commercial use. In addition, this is adversely affecting employment because many people are losing their jobs in the fishing industries. On the other hand, prices of Argentinean hake are rising due to the scarcity of the product. Based on this fact, exports are decreasing sharply, which is ultimately affecting the economy of the country.
In Chile, exports of seafood, especially Chilean hake, have decreased dramatically. The exportation of hake fish has decreased by almost 19 percent. The main cause of this decline is the earthquake and tsunami that hit Chile in February 2010. These disasters destroyed most processing plants, especially manufacturing companies dealing in the production of fishmeal and frozen fillets.
When it comes to European Hake, research has shown that catches are well below the historical level. This has ultimately led to depletion of European hake in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. However, there are different factors that might have caused this declination, including a too-high Total Annual Catch, unsustainable fishing, ecological problems, juvenile catches, or non-registered catches.
Currently, the only Hake species that is considered not to be over-fished is Cape hake, which is found in Zone 47-Namibia, according to the Worldwide Fund. Namibia is the only country that has increased its quota of hake fish, resulting from 130,000 tonnes in 2009 to 145,000 tonnes in 2010. Furthermore, the Local Ministry of Fisheries adheres to very strict rules and regulations regarding the catch of hake. For example, the closed seasons for hake fish lasts for approximately two months, September and October, depending on the level of stock. This rule has been applied in order to ensure that the regrowth of the hake fish population is being allowed. Supplement restrictions that have been imposed are: trawling for Hake is not allowed in waters less than 200 m in depth so as not to affect the natural habitat of non-targeted species, and minimizing by-catch.
An old European source mentions a hake that was transplanted from the coast of Ireland to Cape Cod. It is uncertain which species this is, but the reference is given below:
This is an Irish salt water fish, similar in appearance to the tom cod. In Galway bay, and other sea inlets of Ireland, the hake is exceedingly abundant, and is taken in great numbers. It is also found in England and France. Since the Irish immigration to America, the hake has followed in the wake of their masters, as it is now found in New York bay, in the waters around Boston, and off Cape Cod. Here it is called the stock fish, and the Bostonians call them poor Johns. It is a singular fact that until within a few years this fish was never seen in America. It does not grow as large here as in Europe, though here they are from ten to eighteen inches [250 to 460 mm] in length. The general color of this fish is a reddish brown, with some golden tints - the sides being of a pink silvery luster.