New Zealand hoki is available frozen in either skin-on or skin-off boneless fillets. Hoki flesh is off-white and when cooked is more flavorful than most other whitefish due to its higher fat content. Most New Zealand hoki exported to the United States is deep-skinned because there is a noticeable brown fat line. Premium center cut New Zealand hoki loins that lack the thin tail are also available from most processors. The highest quality New Zealand hoki is caught by factory trawlers from January through June and will have whiter flesh than hoki frozen on-shore, according to some buyers. Quality can vary considerably so buyers are advised to be sure of what they’re purchasing.
Hoki are fast growing with high fecundity, making them fairly resistant to fishing pressure but their spawning aggregations off the west coast of New Zealand make them easy for fishermen to find.
The abundance of hoki in New Zealand is high, based on population assessments. However, there is conflicting evidence of declines in abundance over the past several years due to changing environmental and oceanographic conditions.
Habitat impacts (Wild)
Most hoki is caught off New Zealand by mid-water and bottom trawlers. Hoki go deeper down, closer to the ocean floor, as they mature. Mid-water trawlers cause little habitat damage, but bottom trawlers can have a substantial impact on the seafloor. Since most of the bottom trawling occurs in the muddy, gravel, and flat clay-like strata that are fairly resilient, the impact is minimized.
Bycatch in this fishery is considered moderate, and mostly consists of fish such as hake, ling, and southern blue whiting. The bycatch of seals, sea lions, and seabirds, remains a major concern in this fishery. Hoki fishing crews are required to undergo training in order to decrease seabird bycatch and fishermen are encouraged to use the Brady Bird Baffler, a special device that keeps birds away from a vessel. Minimum mesh sizes and area closures also prevent juvenile hoki bycatch.
Western and eastern hoki are managed separately in New Zealand by the country’s Ministry of Fisheries. Substantial measures are in place that make the fishery successful in achieving its conservation and sustainability goals. Those measures include catch limits, catch monitoring, thorough population assessments done annually, area closures, and sophisticated modeling.