Visit any gastropub, hotel or restaurant and you will almost certainly see ‘Hake’ (or Cornish Hake) on the menu but despite the waters off Cornwall being abundant with the elegant, tasty whitefish this has not always been the case. Turn the clock back 10 or 15 years and around 80% of Hake landed into the UK were destined for export into Europe (France, Spain etc).
So what changed? Due to a successful fish stock recovery plan led by the EU the fish have been increasingly plentiful off British (and, in particular, Cornish shores). At the same time stocks of other popular whitefish species such as Cod from the North Sea were still recovering and consumers were being urged to diversify their eating habits. Fish like Pollack were turned to as Cod substitutes. Then, in 2008, came the financial collapse of banks across Europe that led to severe austerity in many countries and in particular Spain meaning that the average Spanish household could no longer afford their most prized dish.
Falling demand from Spanish consumers sent shockwaves through the UK fish markets as the main outlet for Hake effectively dried up. Local fishermen turned to social media to broadcast news of their catches and with the help of organisations like Seafish created a new following amongst leading chefs and foodie bloggers.
However, this alone was not enough to create the market demand needed and so with the help of the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation (CFPO) they took the Cornish gill-net Hake fishery through the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) assessment process resulting in the fishery being certified in June 2015. Since then the fishery has been a sustainable success story continuing to go from strength to strength with Cornish MSC Hake now available from most supermarkets.