Other Names: In South Africa it is called "Hake"; in Spain it is known as "Merluza" and in the U. S. it is known as "Cape Capensis". Back when cod was cheap and haddock abundant (15 years ago!), capensis was sold in the U.S. as "Cape Whiting", a generic whitefish.
Identification & Biology: While capensis, (along with other hakes), is often compared to cod, (and historically substituted for cod), it is a much smaller fish, averaging about 1-1/2 pounds compared to cod at 6 to 20 pounds.
Range & Habitat: Cape Capensis is a cold water fish. Cape Capensis are captured only on the Atlantic side of South Africa, not on the Indian Ocean side. The difference in temperature between the two sides, (which merge at the Cape of Good Hope), can be as much as 10 degrees celcius, (from as low as 14 degrees in the Atlantic to a high of 24 degrees on the Indian Ocean side). Thus, a fisherman can theoretically fish a cod species like capensis on one day and subtropical species such as marlin or tuna a day or two later.
Today, it has a name and a following. South Africa is the major producer; the U.S. and Europe are the major markets.
The story of capensis is the reverse of most: a fish that came back from the biological brink and is now the healthiest hake in the hemisphere. Harvests off South Africa are the best in 25 years with a maximum sustainable yield of just under 200,000 tons. Scientists predict that with continued careful management, the supply will eventually reach 500,000 tons.
Market Description: The dominant product form is frozen, skinless, boneless fillets, but some fresh (from the inshore fleet) goes to Europe, where it is highly revered for its white flake and sweet flavor.
Buying Tips: Cape Capensis has a mild, sweet, and delicate flavor and is a fabulous substitute for the more expensive Sole, Flounder & Orange Roughy.
Recommended Preparation: The cape capensis is easy to cook, and in general is suitable for most whitefish recipes.