Northwest Fisheries Science Center

At-sea Hake (Pacific Whiting) Processing

Sector Description

The at-sea hake processing sector operates off the U.S. West Coast from the U.S./Canadian border to the Oregon/California border. It consists of large factory vessels that process catch at-sea. There are three components of this sector:

At-sea hake vessels range in size from 150 to over 300 feet. Vessels target Pacific hake (Merluccius productus) with mid-water trawl nets and fish during the primary season from May through November. The catch is predominantly hake, but can include rockfish (Sebastes spp.) and salmon bycatch. There are approximately 9-15 vessels that participate in the fishery in any given year. The portion of their catch that can be processed is retained and the portion of the catch which is prohibited by regulations or can not be processed is discarded at-sea.

Regulations for the sector are set by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). Active management of the fishery began in the early 1980’s with the establishment of harvest guidelines for several managed species and trip limits for widow rockfish, the Sebastes complex, and sablefish. In 1997, the catcher/processor (C/P) fleet entered into a cooperative agreement (co-op) which split the hake quota into individual fishing quotas by company. The mothership fleet continued to operate as an olympic fishery until catch share program implementation.

Selection Process

Processing vessels over 125 feet in length are required by regulation to have full observer coverage for all fishing days. Each vessel carries two observers so that data collection can take place 24 hours a day. Processing vessels 125 feet or less in length are required to have one observer on-board for all fishing days. Vessels contact independent observer provider companies that hire NMFS-certified observers. Regulations can be found on NOAA’s West Coast Region’s groundfish regulations website.


As 100% observer coverage is required, all trips taken by all vessels participating in the at-sea hake processing sector are covered. As no coverage waivers can be granted, any vessel safety issues must be resolved before an observer is deployed.

At-sea Hake Processing Reporting

At-sea Hake Processing Reporting

Year of data Year of release Description Format
AllContinualWest Coast Region websiteWest Coast Region website