The biology and fisheries of European hake, Merluccius merluccius, in the north-east Atlantic.Adv Mar Biol. 2010; 58:97-154.AM
The aim of this chapter is to review the biology and fishery, including the management, of European hake in the north-east Atlantic. The European hake is widely distributed throughout the north-east Atlantic, from Norway in the north to the Guinea Gulf in the south, and throughout the Mediterranean and Black Sea, being more abundant from the British Isles to the south of Spain. In this area, ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) recognises the existence of two stocks: the northern stock and the southern stock. Both stocks have been extensively and intensively harvested and since the beginning of the 90s have been considered to be outside safe biological limits. The northern stock, however, is currently considered to lie within safe biological limits. In any case, recovery plans were implemented for the northern stock in 2004 and for the southern stock in 2006. Despite its commercial importance, knowledge of the biology and ecology of the European hake in the North Atlantic is still quite scarce. For example, recent investigations suggest that European hake grows much faster, by a factor of two, than was considered previously. This faster growth also affects the maturity-at-age pattern of hake and the agreed maturity-at-age ogive used in the assessments. European hake is a top predator in the demersal community in the north-east Atlantic area; mainly preying on blue whiting, horse mackerel and other cupleids. In relation to the reproductive biology, European hake is considered to be a batch spawner species with indeterminate fecundity and spawning activity all year round. All these characteristics could, in turn, be interpreted as European hake adopting a more opportunistic life strategy, which is unusual for a gadoid and demersal species, and raises several questions about hake biology and ecology that require further investigation.