Common name: Blue Grenadiers, Hakes, Southern Hakes


A diverse family of commercially important fishes found worldwide, mostly in temperate southern waters.

Image Gallery

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Southern Hakes ..., MERLUCCIIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 13 Jul 2024,

More Info

Family Taxonomy

Small family with about 18 or more described species in 4 or 5 genera; two described species in two genera are found in Australian waters. With the exception of Merluccius, researchers disagree about the placement of genera in this family.

Family Distribution

Found in temperate and cold-temperate waters throughout the Atlantic and in parts of the Pacific and Indian oceans of both hemispheres. Merluciids are most abundant on the continental slope in southern waters. They are benthic or benthopelagic fishes inhabiting the continental shelves and slopes in moderate to abyssal depths to 2500m, although juveniles are found in shallower waters.

Family Description

Body elongate, fusiform, compressed posteriorly, tapering in one subfamily; head large, pointed, with a V-shaped dorsal ridge; eye moderate to large, mouth large, terminal, oblique, lower jaw protruding slightly beyond upper; jaws with well-developed, strong pointed teeth; branchiostegal rays 7, chin barbel absent. One or two dorsal fins, if two present, the first short-based, high, with spinous anterior elements, second long-based, somewhat bilobed in one genus, with a distinct or confluent caudal fin; anal fin long-based, anterior rays spinous; pelvic fin insertion slightly before or behind pectoral-fin insertion; caudal fin either distinct, truncate to forked, or, tapering and confluent with dorsal and anal fins. Scales small, cycloid, deciduous.

Family Size

To 1.2 m in length and 6 kg in weight.

Family Feeding

These active and voracious predators feed mainly on other fishes (including myctophids, gadiform fishes and nototheniids), and on on squids, crustaceans and benthic invertebrates. Species of the genus Macruronus reportedly feed mostly on lanternfishes (Family Myctophidae).

Family Reproduction

Oviparous, spawn small, smooth, spherical, pelagic eggs, 0.8-1.2 mm diameter, oil globule single, yolk homogenous. Larvae pelagic, tadpole-shaped at hatching, gut short with single loop exiting laterally rather than medially through finfold, eyes round, unpigmented, mouth non-functional, pigmentation well-developed; caudal fin forms first. Gradual transformation to juvenile stage is followed by a pelagic-juvenile stage. Juveniles descend to the bottom in shallower continental shelf waters. Blue Grenadier, Macruronus novaezelandiae, spawn in winter to early spring in deep continental slope waters; juveniles are found in shallower water on the continental shelf and gradually move to deeper water, attaining sexual maturity at 3 years of age and about 60 cm FL.

Family Commercial

Many species of this commerically important family live in large schools and are marketed fresh, frozen and as fishmeal. The genera Macruronus and Merluccius support large targeted fisheries and are caught primarily by demersal trawl, but also with gillnets and longlines. Blue Grenadier (Macruronus novaezelandiae) is fished year-round in southeastern Australia, mostly in Tasmanian and Victorian waters from May to August, but also targeted extensively in New Zealand and off South America. The flesh is good eating, especially when fresh; imported mostly as hoki (plus cod or hake) from New Zealand. Hakes of the genus Merluccius support large targeted fisheries and have a high market value. Southern Hake (Merluccius australis) is targeted commercially off South America, and in multispecies fisheries in New Zealand waters.

Family Conservation

Not assessed.

Family Remarks

Some species undertake diurnal vertical migrations.


Dianne J. Bray


Lloris, D., J. Matallanas & P. Oliver. 2005. Hakes of the World (Family Merlucciidae). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of hake species known to date. FAO Species Catalogue for Fishery Purposes. No. 2. FAO, Rome 57 pp.

Fahay, M.P. & D.F. Markle. 1984. Gadiformes: development and relationships, pp. 265-283 In Moser H.G., W.J. Richards, D.M. Cohen, M.P. Fahay, A.W. Kendall, Jr. & S.L. Richardson (eds). Ontogeny and Systematics of Fishes. Am. Soc. Ichthyol. Herpetol. Spec. Publ. No. 1.

Howes, G.J. 1991. Anatomy, phylogeny and taxonomy of the gadoid fish genus Macruronus G√ľnther, 1873, with a revised hypothesis of gadoid phylogeny. Bull. Br. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Zool. 57(1): 77-110.

Inada, T. 1981. Studies on the merlucciid fishes. Bull. Far Seas Fish. Res. Lab. 18: 1-172.

Inada, T. 1990. Family Merlucciidae, pp. 319-345 In Cohen, D.M., T. Inada, T. Iwamoto & N. Scialabba. FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 10. Gadiform Fishes of the World (Gadiformes). An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of Cods, Hakes, Grenadiers and other Gadiform Fishes Known to Date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125, Vol. 10. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. 442pp.

Iwamoto, T. & D.M. Cohen. 2003. Phycidae, Gaidropsaridae, Merluciidae, and Gadidae. Pp. 1005-1025. In Carpenter, K.E. (ed.) The living marine resources of the Western Central Atlantic. Volume 2: Bony fishes part 1 (Acipenseridae to Grammatidae). FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes and American Society of Ichthyologist and Herpetologists Special Publication No. 5. FAO, Rome.

Lindquist, D.C., R.F. Shaw & T. Farooqi. 2006. Merlucciidae: Hakes, pp. 633 In Richards, W.J. (ed). Early Stages Of Atlantic Fishes: An Identification Guide For The Western Central North Atlantic. CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, Boca Raton, FL, 2640 pp.

Matallanas, J. & D. Lloris. 2006. Description of Merluccius tasmanicus sp nov. and redescription of Merluccius australis (Pisces: Merluciidae). J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. U. K. 86: 193-199.

Punt, A.E., D.C. Smith, R.B. Thomson, M. Haddon, X. He & J.M. Lyle. 2001. Stock assessment of the blue grenadier Macruronus novaezelandiae resource off south-eastern Australia. Mar. Freshwater Res. 52(4): 701-717.