The Pacific Whiting Fishery

Pacific whiting (or hake, Merluccius productus) comprises the largest fishery off the West Coast of the U.S. and British Columbia.  Pacific whiting is primarily made into surimi, a minced fish product used to make imitation crab and other products.  More recently, there has been growth in the production of hake fillets.

The whiting fishery developed in the 1960s with the arrival of distant water fleets from the former Soviet Union and eastern European nations.  In the 1980s, the fishery in the U.S. exclusive economic zone (i.e., 200 miles seaward of state waters) evolved into a joint venture operation between foreign at-sea processing vessels and U.S. catcher vessels.  By the 1990s, the fishery had developed into a domestic fishery with three distinct sectors – Catcher/Processors (CP) that harvest and process at-sea; Motherships (MS) that take deliveries from catcher vessels and process at-sea; and Shoreside (SS) where shorebased processing plants take deliveries from catcher vessels.

Under the Pacific Council's groundfish fishery management plan each non-tribal fishery sector receives an allocation of the annual whiting harvest level; 34% to CP, 24% to MS, and 42% to SS.

Coastal treaty Tribes in Washington State comprise a fourth sector of the U.S. Pacific whiting fishery.  Per an agreement with the U.S. government, coastal treaty Tribes receive a specific annual allocation of whiting.  Their allocation is based on the level of allowable of harvest, which varies year-to-year. 

Current information about the status of Pacific hake and the hake fishery are available in the 2017 stock assessment (JTC, 2017).  

In November 2003, the U.S. and Canada signed the –  Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America on Pacific Hake/Whiting – to establish new ways to strengthen cooperation between Canada and the U.S. by creating a process under which the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is decided and the fishery is managed. Under this agreement, 26.12% of the TAC is annually allocated to Canada, and 73.88% of the TAC is annually allocated to the United States.  The Agreement was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 2006 and signed into law on January 12, 2007 when President Bush signed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006.

Further information about management under the Hake Treaty is available on the Pacific Hake Treaty webpage.

Further information about the U.S. pacific hake fishery is available on the NMFS Pacific Whiting webpage.


Updated April 28, 2017