Pacific hake (Merluccius productus)

Pacific hake
Pacific hake
Category: Fish
Related species groups: Codfish
Common names: whiting
Vulnerability to climate change (More details)

Low-
Moderate

Populations of this species

Pacific hake were one of the first fish species to occur in Saanich Inlet following glacial retreat from the region, after approximately 12,000 years before present (BP). Fish abundance and species diversity peaked in Saanich Inlet between 7,500 and 6,000 BP, and the last 1,000 years have seen some of the lowest abundances of fishes in Saanich Inlet's marine history. The close proximity of Saanich Inlet to Puget Sound would suggest that Pacific hake were also likely established in Puget Sound by about 12,000 BP.

Description and Range

Physical description

Similar to cods, Pacific hake have an elongate, soft body and square caudal fin. The body is silvery with black speckles on the dorsal side. The second dorsal fin and anal fin are deeply notched (not separated into 2 fins). This species lacks a chin barbell. The lower jaw projects slightly. The inside of the mouth is black with sharp teeth. Scales are tiny and cycloid, and frequently rubbed off during capture.

Pacific hake can grow up to 44 cm (35.8 in) in length and live up to 13 years.

Geographic range

Offshore stocks of Pacific hake range from Sanak Island in the western Gulf of Alaska to Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur. There are three much smaller stocks with much smaller ranges: a Puget Sound stock, a Strait of Georgia stock, and a dwarf stock limited to waters off Baja California. The offshore stock of Pacific hake is migratory and inhabits the continental slope and shelf within the California current system from Baja California to British Columbia.

They are found near the bottom or in the water column to depths of 914 m (3,000 ft). They are most common in water shallower than 229 m (750 ft).

Climate vulnerability

Sensitivity to climate change

Low-
Moderate

Pacific hake are unlikely to experience direct physiological sensitivity to climate change. However, increases in sea surface temperature, changes in upwelling patterns, and the associated changes that these trigger in zooplankton abundance will increase their sensitivity. Pacific hake have already been documented as moving northward into Canadian waters; this shift is thought to be linked to higher food abundance in more northerly waters. Pacific hake primarily target euphausiids, which often decline in abundance with warmer water conditions. Potential increases in water temperature could lead to decreases in euphausiid prey, declines in recruitment, and further northward shifts of Pacific hake.

Confidence: Moderate

Exposure to climate change

Moderate

  • Increased ocean temperatures
  • Altered upwelling patterns
Confidence: Moderate

Regulations

Rules and seasons

Recreational harvest within Puget Sound is now closed, with the exception of restricted fishing in the San Juan Islands and Strait of Juan de Fuca.

State record

WeightAnglerLocationDate Caught
4.06 lbs Samir Haj Westport, Grays Harbor County July 30, 2013

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