When I had just started with this fish project I described it in an email to my Granny who lives in England. She replied and wondered “why some fish are found all over the world and others seem to stick to one place? For instance, do you have turbot, halibut, hake etc in the Pacific or are they Atlantic fish?”. This and many other questions about fish are still a mystery to me and usually the answer is not particularly clear cut.

So, we do have hake, but your hake and ours are both one of a dozen or more geographically distinct subspecies of the Merlucciidae fish family. They live mostly in deep water and eat whatever is down there, sometimes rising to the surface at night. Hake seems to be less popular or well known in New Zealand. I suspect if I had a friend reel off 10 commercial fish species hake wouldn’t appear, however it does seem to be available, and it is on the fish poster. It is described as a tasty white fish, which handles a range of seasoning and smoking.

I spent a good couple of hours going around in circles trying to figure out whether New Zealand’s hake is a good choice environmentally. Forest & Bird rate it poorly due to seals, sea lions and birds being caught as a by-catch, and Greenpeace rate it poorly as well. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), who are an international non-profit originally set up in a partnership between WWF and Unilever have certified the South Western Pacific hake fishery as healthy for the next 5 years, and this is the certification a lot of commercial fishery operations go by.

If you’ve got lots of time on your hands you could read this article from Greenpeace poking holes in MSC’s approach, or this 2011 Guardian article on the poor credibility of MSC’s findings, or this 2014 response from MSC to Greenpeace. I guess overall it is good that there is a robust discussion going on at some level.

Hake’s Atlantic counterpart seems to have a more optimistic outlook in European publications. Thats a good thing because according to Wikipedia the Spaniards are mad for it and eat 6 kilos per capita annually. Anyway somewhere I read that trevally would be a good stand-in for hake, and happened upon some at the market so I’m going to leave all this up in the air and move on to the next fish…