The Cape hakes

Two species of hake are found in South African waters: the shallow-water Cape hake Merluccius capensis and the deep-water hake Merluccius paradoxus. Both species are referred to as “demersal fish” because they generally live and feed on or near the seabed (the demersal zone).

As their names suggest, the two species live at different depths: shallow-water hake have been recorded from close inshore (30m) to about 500m, with most of the population living between 100 and 300m, while deep-water hake range from depths of 110 to 1 000m, with most of the stock located between 200 and 800m. Both species increase in size the further offshore and the deeper they live and so large shallow-water hake co-exist with (and feed extensively on) smaller deep-water hake.

On the west coast, the continental shelf is narrow and most trawling is in deep water; as a result, catches are dominated by deep-water hake. In contrast, most trawling on the south coast is on the wide continental shelf (the Agulhas Bank) and shallow-water hake tends to dominate, accounting for as much as 70% of hake catches.

Although the two species are distinct, they are usually caught, processed and sold under the collective name of “Cape hake”, “Cape capensis” or “Cape haddie”.

More about the Cape hakes

Merluccius capensis
Merluccius paradoxus

Status of the stocks

Fish stocks fluctuate naturally and in 2014, after six consecutive years of increased catch rates, the fishery entered a downward phase. The total allowable catch (TAC) was reduced slightly in 2015 and 2016 to 147 500 tons (held constant for two years). It is expected that there may be further reductions in the next two to three years, starting with a 5% decrease for 2017 fishing season.

Stock status is reviewed annually and reductions in the TAC are made if necessary. In 2016, the MSC surveillance team concluded that the deep water hake stock (M. paradoxus) is now fluctuating around MSY (maximum sustainable yield) and recommended that Condition 1 of re-certification (rebuilding the M. paradoxus stock) be discontinued.