Located on Canada’s Pacific Coast, British Columbia (B.C.) is home to prime fishing grounds, world-famous salmon rearing rivers, cool pristine oceans, and internationally respected fish processing facilities. Consumers world-wide are reaching for B.C. seafood because of its taste, food safety, traceability, and sustainability.
B.C.’s seafood sector is diverse with more than 100 species of commercial fish, shellfish and marine plants harvested from our oceans and fresh waters and exported to more than 70 international markets. Ukraine is B.C.’s fifth-largest market after the United States, China, Japan, and Hong Kong. Part of what fuels that interest is Ukraine’s appetite for groundfish products, specifically hake.
The groundfish fishery is the largest fishery by volume on the Canadian Pacific coast and makes up about half of B.C.’s total seafood production. In 2019, B.C. exported $200 CAD million in groundfish products to 42 international markets, with 14 percent of these exports going to Ukraine. Groundfish products include hake, halibut, rockfish, arrowtooth flounder, pollock, lingcod, and others. However, Pacific hake (Merluccius productus, also known as Pacific whiting) is by far the largest volume at around 100,000 metric tonnes a year worth over $100 CAD million.
The delicate, white-fleshed, mild-tasting Pacific hake that is so popular in Ukraine is also one of the most abundant fish resources in British Columbia. In terms of harvest, Pacific hake represents the largest share of any seafood species (35 percent) and by far the largest share of any groundfish species (72 percent). B.C. harvested 102,200 tonnes of Pacific hake in 2018, the largest catch since 1994.
In B.C., hake is harvested and processed in three different ways: harvested by Canadian vessels and delivered fresh to land-based processors, harvested and processed by Canadian freezer trawlers, or harvested by Canadian vessels with the catch delivered at sea to foreign factory ships under Joint Venture agreements with Canada.
Until the late 1970s, hake was only harvested in B.C. by foreign factory vessels, but over the years that changed. Canadian vessels began harvesting hake for sale and processing by foreign factory joint venture vessels (frozen headed and tailed) and land-based processors opened, mainly producing surimi and later, frozen headed and gutted products. In 2005, the first two freezer-trawlers came online, producing headed and tailed blocks. There are now seven freezer-trawlers.
Food safety, traceability, and sustainability practices are the cornerstone of British Columbia’s seafood sector and have earned B.C. an international reputation for safe, sustainable, and high-quality seafood products.
Pacific hake is a transboundary fish species that migrates between Canadian and U.S. waters. Together, under treaty, the countries co-manage the hake fishery. B.C. harvests by mid-water trawl and has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council since 2010. The stock of Pacific hake is healthy. A third of the potential total allowable catch is typically left in the water, and there has often been an opportunity for B.C. to grow the catch. Stock assessments and assessment reviews for Pacific hake are done annually in a collaborative effort by U.S. and Canadian scientists and are available from the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC).
B.C.’s groundfish sector has implemented numerous measures to ensure long-term resource sustainability. The Canadian government allocates quantities of each species permitted to be harvested by each vessel, and government-certified validators closely monitor all landings. To protect spawning stock, juvenile fish, and critical species habitat, precautionary groundfish harvest trawl levels and trawl closures are in place throughout the Pacific West Coast. Also, vessels use selective fishing techniques and gear to comply with the Canadian Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing Operations. Strict guidelines are in place to minimize by-catch, including 100 percent, at-sea, and dockside monitoring. British Columbia’s Pacific hake fishery is internationally recognized by the Marine Stewardship Council and certified as “well managed and sustainable”.
Do you want to know more about B.C. seafood or find suppliers of B.C. Pacific hake and groundfish? Check out the B.C. 2021 Agrifood & Seafood Export-Ready Catalogue
or contact Trade and Invest BC