The southern stocks of Argentine hake (Mercluccius hubbsi) are in fragile biological balance which will have a negative impact on catches this year and even more in 2008.
According to the conclusions from the preliminary assessment , Technical Report 92/06 from Mar del Plata's National Institute for Fisheries Research and Development, INIDEP, a considerable drop in the numbers of classes 1 and 2 of hake (between 18 and 30 centimetres) has been confirmed. Based on this information and a considerable reduction in hake's breeding biomass, scientists are recommending a drastic cut in catches of juveniles, both directly and in the by catches. Recruitment has dropped to the critical levels of 1998/2000. The report highlights that as yet "there is no concrete information as to the reasons for this drop, but something happened between January 2005 and January 2006". Based on this the report suggests that catches from the affected recruitment should not exceed 262.000 tons annually to allow the breeding biomass to reach the recovery target of 400.000 tons in the short term. INIDEP scientists suggested the adoption of a management plan aiming at hake recovery in the short term. The evaluation of juvenile abundance that is taking place in the area between parallels 43Ãâ€šÃ‚Âº and 47Ãâ€šÃ‚Âº S should provide new data for a comprehensive view of the situation. The current research is looking to determine juvenile hake concentration and abundance indexes according to the juvenile age grouping of the species in this area. Argentina's oceanographic vessel Eduardo Holmberg is currently on the 28 days hake stocks evaluation cruise, having left Mar del Plata on January 10. The campaign will cover an extended area from the 43Ãâ€šÃ‚Âº S to the 47Ãâ€šÃ‚Âº S and between the 50 m and 100 m isobars. Holmberg is also expected to collect data regarding other species such as golden kingclip, southern king crab and the Illex squid summer spawning stock. (FIS/MP).-