Hake in South Africa

30 March 2021

What You Need to Know about Hake in South Africa

When we think of hake in South Africa, the succulent white flesh of Cape hake comes to mind. South Africans enjoy their proteins and wild-caught fish is among their favourites.

But why hake? Read on to discover a few interesting facts about the industry and why to include Cape hake as part of a diet plan.

Sustainable fishing practices for improved food security

The deep-sea trawling industry in South Africa has come a long way from the early seventies when there was no limit on the catch. Fortunately, industry foresight has helped to increase stock levels significantly, and by 2004 the South African Cape hake fishery received Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. To have gained certification, the fishery had to meet fishery management, low environmental impact, stock levels and sustainability requirements. The industry has since then been re-certified several times, with the latest certification obtained fairly recently.

The MSC is the world’s leading eco-labelling and certification body for sustainable fisheries. View this video about the MSC Blue Label.

What is the role of the deep-sea trawling industry in South Africa?

Hake accounts for as much as 80% of the wild-caught fish along the South African coast. More than 50% of the fishery value of South Africa is made up of the hake industry. It is also the oldest commercial fishery in the country.

Growing export markets for foreign exchange earnings

Cape hake is extremely popular with overseas consumers in Europe, Australia and the USA. With 67% of the wild-catch destined for the export market, the industry also plays a significant role in earning foreign exchange for the country. South Africa is the leading exporter of hake products. See the SADSTIA fact sheet on export markets for South African fish products.

Well-equipped harbour ports for trawlers and processing of wild-caught fish

The country has many harbour ports, well-equipped for the deep-sea trawlers, and with a large coastline, clean waters and good levels of fish stock, the South African deep-sea fishery is geared for success. Harbour ports at Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth and Saldanha Bay are well-suited to receive the trawlers. Processing facilities at places such as Mossel Bay and Gansbaai provide for onshore jobs as well. With many coastal communities reliant on the fishing industry, deep-sea trawling is a significant means for job creation in the country.

Total catch allowance protects stock levels of fish in South Africa’s waters

Sustainable fishing practices help to ensure ongoing economic activity, food security and protection of the environment. Stock levels are protected through the Total Allowed Catch (TAC), with 84% allocated to deep-sea hake trawling. This management method has played an important role in increasing the stock levels of fish. The months of September and October are off-limits for hake fishing in South Africa. This is so to give the fish stock levels time to recover for the next fishing season. This period is not fixed, and reliant on the stock levels, it can be extended or shortened.

cape hake

Processing at sea for freshness

Most of the deep-sea trawlers are already equipped for the heading, gutting and packing of fish at sea. This helps to shorten the period from catch to shelf or table. It also helps to reduce costs and wastage. However, some processing facilities are in place at places such as Mossel Bay and Gansbaai for onshore further processing as well. The fish is cleaned and sold frozen through the retail outlets directly to the public. The products are also packaged for caterer companies and restaurants.

Healthy fish

The Cape hake has been shown to have low levels of mercury, making it a healthy protein. The mercury levels are tested by the National Regulator of Compulsory Specifications (NRCS). Consumers thus have the assurance of safe fish produce when buying Cape Hake in South Africa.

Why include hake in the family’s weekly meal plan?

The wild-caught fish is a sustainable source of protein, rich in Vitamins A, B, D, and E, iron, iodine, and healthy fats. It is a low-calorie protein, easy to prepare and exceptionally tasty. It is caught in the ocean where it has been allowed to grow and live naturally without human interference. Strict controls are in place to minimise the environmental impact of deep-sea trawling. The Sea Harvest Group is also a major employer in the Western Cape and involved in several conservation projects.

Support sustainable food security creation by buying wild-caught hake in South Africa. View more information about the Sea Harvest Group here.


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