specialist seafood exporters and traders

Hoki (Macruronus novaezelandiae)


New Zealand takes pride in the fact that both its hoki stocks are among the best managed stocks in the world.

At the beginning of the 2009/2010 fishing year (1 October 2009), the New Zealand Minister of Fisheries announced that the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) of the nation's two hoki fisheries for the upcoming fishing year (2009/2010) has increased by 20,000 tonnes - more than a 20 percent increase over the previous year. This marks the successful rebuilding of the Western stock, which required catch reductions, a painful process that was undertaken with full support by quota owners in the New Zealand seafood industry in order to keep the fisheries healthy and sustainable.

Industry views the decision as a tremendous validation of a long-term strategy to keep the hoki fisheries economically and environmentally sustainable. Beginning about a decade ago, the New Zealand government and seafood industry made the difficult decision to cut the quota and to shrink the fleet in order to preserve the long-term viability of the hoki fisheries. The catch increase decision is the result of those years of prudent and disciplined management.

Hoki facts

The Basics

  • Hoki is managed ecologically and sustainably. It is regularly assessed and monitored by the New Zealand government agency, the Ministry of Fisheries.
  • It is not and has never been over-fished. This is verified by independent science (see below). 
  • There are two major hoki stocks in New Zealand, one to the west of the country, and the other to the east. Both remain above the limits set by the Ministry of Fisheries to ensure sustainability.
  • The best scientific information available - a 2009 stock assessment by the Ministry of Fisheries - found both stocks are within sustainable target levels.
  • The stocks will naturally fluctuate in size driven by the number of new fish entering the population. As they have done in the past, fisheries managers manage these fluctuations by adjusting catch limits.
  • When assessments earlier in the decade showed declines in the hoki stock, the New Zealand government took action to implement lower catch limits to allow it to recover. As a direct result of that action the 2009 stock assessment showed the hoki fisheries are healthy, increasing in size and have responded well to prudent management. In response to these conditions, the Ministry of Fisheries is considering raising catch limits this year.
  • In marked contrast to the reckless claims of environmental activists, the hoki stock is among the most responsibly and successfully managed in the world. 
  • Most of the area where hoki live has not, and never has been, fished for hoki. Less than 10 per cent of New Zealand's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) has ever been trawled. A total of 30 per cent of the EEZ has been closed to trawling in perpetuity by law to protect benthic (seafloor) ecosystems.
  • Methods to mitigate by-catch of seabirds and mammals have long been used in the hoki trawl fishery. The level of accidental by-catch of protected species in the hoki fishery is low. In recent years mitigation efforts focused on seabirds has resulted in a clear decline in by-catch.

Fisheries Management Facts

  • Fisheries in each hoki stock are managed under separate catch limits, based on scientific assessments, reviewed annually and with adjustments to catch limits to ensure sustainability.
  • The New Zealand  Minister of Fisheries is responsible under the Fisheries Act to ensure that all New Zealand’s fisheries are responsibly managed.
  • There are significant natural fluctuations in hoki stock sizes due to changes in the numbers of young hoki produced each year. Catch limits are adjusted in response to fluctuations.
  • In 2007, both stocks were re-certified by MSC as being sustainably managed - recognising that the western stock needed to be rebuilt in size for greater surety, which has now been done.
  • Catch limit reductions are used to promote rebuilding and are a regularly employed tool in effective fisheries management which needs to be flexible to respond to the natural environment. It is not a response to over-fishing. Neither of the two hoki stocks has been over-fished.

What the Science Says

Fisheries management is a complex challenge. However, there is a significant and ongoing amount of research carried out around New Zealand fisheries and also specifically relating to hoki. Where New Zealand fisheries have been assessed or studied, the conclusions are generally very, very good.

From Dr Worm and Prof Hilborn's media release:

It's good news for several regions in the U.S., Iceland and New Zealand. "These highly managed ecosystems are improving", says Hilborn.

According to the authors' analyses, Alaska and New Zealand have led the world in terms of management success by not waiting until drastic measures are needed to conserve, restore and rebuild marine resources.

The research shows that New Zealand is singled out as an area where eco-systems have never been overfished and are effectively managed. The research clearly shows that New Zealand has successfully managed its fisheries for ecological sustainability - and this is exceptional.

This paper provides a synopsis of four recent publications that compare and contrast the effectiveness of fisheries management among the world's countries/EEZs. The publications include a review of fisheries management regimes relative to the UN code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries; a journal paper that publishes the results from that relate to the implementation of the Ecosystem based fisheries management; and two additional publications that use (somewhat) differing criteria to assess the fisheries management regimes among all or most of the world's EEZs. It is a brief summary of each paper with particular emphasis on the results pertaining to New Zealand and the performance of New Zealand's fisheries management regime relative to other (developed) countries.

The publication of these studies also coincides with the paper titled Rebuilding Global Fisheries (the link is above - Worm Hilborn et al) that rated New Zealand marine areas as second equal with Alaska as the healthiest in the world.  (It is important to note that this rating is the highest possible...not the ‘best of a bad bunch'as some NGOs described it.) 

Hoki

Hoki (Macruronus novaezelandiae) is New Zealand's most important commercial fish species. It lives mainly in the middle water depths and is taken by trawling, usually at depths of around 300 - 600 metres.

Hoki Fishery

Hoki are found throughout New Zealand waters, but the main catching grounds are off the West Coast of the South Island, in Cook Strait, and on the Chatham Rise.

New Zealand's hoki fishery is managed by strict quotas which allow only a set amount of hoki to be taken commercially each year. This Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) was increased to 110,010 metric tonnes for the 2009/10 fishing year.


Hoki Meat Quality

Hoki flesh is moist, white and delicate, with few bones. It flakes easily and is excellent for forming into fish block. It is also well suited to further processing into a wide range of consumer presentations. In fact in New Zealand and many other countries, it is New Zealand's sustainable hoki in your McDonalds Fillet'o'Fish.

New Zealand:  Hoki, Whiptail, Blue Grenadier, Blue Hake
Australia:  Blue Grenadier
Germany:  Langschwanz-Seehecht
Italy:  Nasello azzurro
Spain:  Merluza azul