The Ballad of the Hake, by Herb Shippen

Pulling in a hake net, photo courtesy of Oceana and youtube

Pulling in a hake net, photo courtesy of Oceana and youtube

We are close to finishing our book, which means we have been thinking a lot of about the 1960s and the foreign boats showing up off the coast of Oregon and Washington, as Bob Hitz has told us about. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about subsidies to encourage the development of fishing, and one of them was the hake plant at Aberdeen, Washington.

Soviet factory trawlers were off Alaska in 1959 and they moved steadily south, catching our poster fish, Pacific Ocean Perch, or POP. And when the POP was gone–in less than a decade–the Soviets moved to another plentiful West Coast fish, Pacific hake.  Dr. Donald Gunderson has provided us with a song called “The Ballad of the Hake,” written by Herb Shippen.

Pacific hake are plentiful off the West Coast, and in the 1960s, they attracted a great deal

Pacific Hake

Pacific Hake

of attention by the federal government, which wanted to turn them into Fish Protein Concentrate, or FPC.

The idea was to take low quality, cheap fish and turn them into a dried product that could be stored without refrigeration and used to alleviate malnutrition. The objective was to create a universally accepted, greyish-white, odorless, tasteless product, that could be used to supplement nutrition in Third World countries.

It was a high-technology enterprise, reflecting massive amounts of capital, energy, and expertise, all of which were lacking in the developing world where it was going to be deployed. It was costly to produce, only provided a supplement to nutrition, and ignored that some developing nations had no history or culture around eating fish. In a flush of enthusiasm, an experimental plant was build in Aberdeen, Washington, and a dozen trawl boats were paid to catch hake and deliver it to the new plant. One of them was our old friend, George Moskovita.

The Ballad of the Hake

It started out one summer day in 1964

Captain George Moskovita

Captain George Moskovita

Lee said the hake are swarming so I hear

But they’re in midwater and can’t be caught in spite of all our lots

NcNeely go ahead and plan some brand new gear.


The net it was tremendous, full sixty feet across

The doors were hydrofoils of mammoth size

Complete with telemetry and special cables too

It filled the Cobb’s reel right up to the sides.


Zuanich came from Everett, Evich from Bellingham

Puretich came from Gig Harbor in the south

They caught the hake at such a rate they almost swamped their boats

But they hurried north and pumped them out at Moore’s


Patashnik said they sure tastes fine, I’ve eaten quite a lot

Those parasites don’t bother me at all

We buried Max along the shores of Saratoga Pass

One dark and dreary rainy night last fall


Cobb early 1960s, Hitz on the bridge, USFW photo

Cobb early 1960s, Hitz on the bridge, USFW photo

The fish biologists they came with board and knife in hand

They said we need some otoliths of hake

For without them how can age be known and hence mortality

And without this there won’t be take to take


The plankton nets were dragged the length and breadth of Puget Sound

Hake eggs and larvae pickled by the jar

And now the hake are in sad straights it certainly is clear

That over-sampling helped to put them there


The hake no longer can be seen in Saratoga Pass

The drag boats shun Port Susan’s barren floor

Hake eggs and larvae are no more in all of Puget Sound

And the fish meal plants are closing up their doors


Oh, the fish meal plants are closed up tight, they haven’t any hake

The wind and rain blows through their hopper doors

The year class strength is almost down to naught, mortality is one

And those hake biologists are no more


From Neah Bay to Blanco, the Cobb ran sounding lines

Thick schools of hake were found most everywhere

But when they set the CPT, twas the jellyfish they got

And Heater said let’s try it over there


A plant was built in Aberdeen to process coastal hake

The subsidies were hailed both near and far

Ten boats delivered to the plant for two months of the year

But they never reached six hundred tons per day


Along the coast of region one for hake eggs we did search

Aboard the Kelez and the John N. Cobb

We dragged the plankton nets along from Brookings to Cape Scott

But all we got was lantern fish and cod.





About finleyc

I'm a writer and a historian of science. I'm interested in the intersection of science and policy in the oceans, and especially around fishing.
This entry was posted in Carmel Finley, Cold War, Dayton Lee Alverson, Environmental History, Fisherie subsidies, Fisheries policy, fisheries science, George Moskovita, History of Science, History of Technology, Marine Policy, Maritime History, Ocean fishing, Pacific Fishing History Project, Soviet environmental history, Soviet fishing, World History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Ballad of the Hake, by Herb Shippen

  1. Ed Best says:

    in regards to the Ballad of the Hake, I think the fellow from Gig Harbor was John Puratich.

    Also in your history of Pacific Coast fisheries don’t forget the Dogfish and Soupfin shark fisheries.

    Sent from my iPad


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