South Africa hake trawl
Last Updated: 12 March 2015
Certified as sustainable in April 2004.
Re-certified in March 2010.
MSC Assessment Status
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Species: Hake (Merluccius paradoxus and Merluccius capensis)
Location: South Atlantic Ocean
Fishing methods: Bottom trawl
Vessels: Deepsea trawlers ranging from 20 to 90 metres in length and inshore trawlers ranging from 15 to 35 metres in length.
Number of fisheries: 2
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More about hake
Hake is slow growing fish with a lifespan of about 14 years. It is known to grow to about 115 cm and males and females are very not very easily differentiated. The larger Merluccius capensis is known to prey on young Merluccius paradoxus, and cannibalism is also seen in both species. Both species aggregate to spawn – once in early summer and again in autumn.
After fertilisation at depth, hake eggs float to the surface and the larvae quickly develop and become free swimming in the upper levels of the sea. After a short period, baby hake then migrate to the bottom of the sea.
Hake also undertake daily vertical migration – they aggregate close to the bottom in the daytime and then disperse and move higher in the water in the night to feed on fish and plankton. Trawlers target hake at the bottom of the sea in the daytime.
More about the fishing methods
Deep-water hake Merluccius paradoxus is predominantly trawled and shallow-water Merluccius capensisis is largely caught by inshore trawl, longline and handline. Trawls are tunnel shaped nets with a wide open mouth and a closed off tail where the fish are collected. These are dragged along the bottom or through the water column to catch fish.
The deep-sea trawl sector for South African operates primarily on the shelf edge in waters deeper than 300 metres from the Namibian border southwards to the south coast.
The inshore trawl fishery operates along the South African south coast and typically comprises mostly small side-trawlers working in waters shallower than 110 metres on the Agulhas Bank.
Hake is by far the most valuable fish resource in South Africa. The main export markets for these hake are frozen fish to Spain; frozen fillets to Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Australia and the USA, and fresh chilled hake to Germany, Spain and France. In the USA, South Africa hake is often marketed as ‘Cape capensis’.