The Chilean common hake is an important fishery species off the coasts of Peru and Chile and a medium-sized predator that spends most of its time on or near the seafloor. It has a wide depth range and can be observed or captured from 165 feet (50 m) to 1650 feet (500 m).
Chilean common hake are generalist predators and eat a variety of benthic prey. They are known to eat squids, crustaceans, and other invertebrates and several species of bony fishes. Though they spend most of their lives associated with the seafloor, Chilean common hake sometimes hunt in the water column. Females have faster growth rates and reach larger sizes – at least 3.5 feet (over one meter) long. Males only reach about two thirds of the size of females.
There are significant genetic differences between the Chilean common hake that live off of Chile and those that live off of Peru. In fact, the populations distributed in each of these two locations are recognized as separate subspecies. The subspecies are separated by approximately five degrees of latitude where the species is not found. Some mixing between the two areas must occur, but it likely happens relatively rarely. This species reproduces through a behavior known as broadcast spawning, where several females release eggs and several males release sperm into the water column, all at the same time. This method increases the likelihood that eggs will become successfully fertilized and that fertilized eggs will not be eaten by egg predators near the seafloor.
The Chilean common hake is fished very heavily in both Peru and Chile. The conservation status of this species is currently unknown, but it is certainly overfished. Fishers are currently catching fewer individuals per unit effort than they did ten years ago, and the captured individuals are smaller. Furthermore, this species is targeted by gillnets, a fishing method that is known to accidentally capture several other non-target species. Without careful management of the Chilean common hake fishery, this species could be put at risk of endangerment or extinction before conservation scientists even have sufficient data to assess it.
Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.