European Hake (Merluccius merluccius)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



Merluccius merluccius has an elongate body that may reach up to 1.3 m in length. Although superficially similar to the cod-like family, it only has two dorsal fins and one anal fin. The first dorsal fin is short and triangular. The second dorsal fin, like the anal fin, is prolonged. It has a straight lateral line. It has a large and narrow head with a large mouth. It has a dark blue dorsal colouring but is silvery-grey underneath. Merluccius merluccius has been observed using its pectoral and pelvic fins to dig into soft sandy substrates, often throwing sand onto their backs.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Found in the western English Channel as far east as Dorset, in the Irish Sea as far north as the Isle of Man and off southern Ireland. One sighting puts it as far north as western Scotland.

Global distribution



The European hake is a demersal species that is usually found between 70-350 m. May be observed feeding alone on the bottom or in shoals in the water column.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Elongate and up to 1.
  • 3 m in length.
  • Two dorsal and one anal fin.
  • Straight lateral line.
  • Narrow head and large mouth with large lips.
  • Lower jaw with two rows of teeth, upper jaw with only one.
  • Barbel on lower lip is absent.

Additional information

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  1. Agnew, D.J., 1989. The distribution and biology of hake (Merluccius merluccius) subject to the Northern Ireland spring fishery. ICES Council Meeting Papers, C.M.1989/G:58

  2. Froese, R. & Pauly, D., 2007. Fishbase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line], 2008-02-18

  3. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  4. Moen, F.E. & Svensen, E., 2004. Marine Fish & Invertebrates of Northern Europe. Southend-on-Sea: Aqua Press.

  5. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).


  1. Fenwick, 2018. Aphotomarine. Occurrence dataset Accessed via on 2018-10-01

  2. Isle of Wight Local Records Centre, 2017. IOW Natural History & Archaeological Society Marine Records. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-27.

  3. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  4. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-07-22

  5. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. SEWBReC Fish (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-02.


This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Merluccius merluccius European Hake. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 22-07-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 22/05/2008