The first Hf isotope data for seawater are reported for a series of stations in the Northwestern Pacific and define a range from ɛHf = 3.5 ± 1.4 to 8.6 ± 1.6. Most samples have values within error of the average of ɛHf = 5.9, but significant variations are found in intermediate waters at a depth of 600 m, as well as in deep waters. The Nd and Hf isotope compositions of the deep waters fall within the range of values found for surfaces of hydrogenetic ferromanganese crusts in the region, confirming that Hf in the Fe-Mn crusts has been derived from the overlying water column, which thus provide an archive of past seawater compositions. Although the seawater samples are generally close to the global ɛNd–ɛHf correlation obtained from ferromanganese crusts, there are significant deviations from this correlation indicating that there is some additional decoupling between Nd and Hf isotope signals, most likely caused by local water mass mixing and differences in residence times. This is not resolved in the crust samples, which integrate seawater signals over 10'000 years. The combined use of these two isotope systems in seawater therefore provides an additional dimension for tracing water masses in the oceans. Studies of the distribution of oceanic Hf isotope compositions that have been confined to deep water and boundary waters, as recorded in seafloor ferromanganese crusts, can now be extended and aimed at characterising the entire present-day water column. Average Hf concentrations measured in this study are somewhat lower than previously reported, suggesting a shorter residence time for Hf in the global oceans, although the uncertainty in the extent of Hf removal from the water column during estuarine mixing as well as a lack of data on hydrothermal and dust inputs remains a limit on how well the residence time can be defined.