PWCC was formed in 1997 and is comprised of the companies licensed to operate in the at-sea catcher-processor sector of the Pacific whiting fishery. PWCC was formed to promote rational harvest, optimal utilization, and minimal waste in the whiting fishery. By working cooperatively, PWCC member companies have greatly improved product recovery rates and significantly decreased bycatch, notably of salmonids and rockfish, in our sector of the whiting fishery. PWCC also funds and performs research to generally improve the West Coast groundfish fishery.
Fish harvesting practices in the catcher-processor sector of the Pacific whiting fishery changed dramatically during the 1990’s. The catcher-processor fishery evolved from an Olympic-style “race for fish” into a fish harvesting cooperative that emphasizes resource conservation and efficient production. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (Pacific Council) provided the needed regulatory framework for the change when it formally divided the annual total allowable catch of Pacific whiting (Merluccius productus) among three fishery sectors—vessels delivering to shoreside processors (shoreside sector – 42%); vessels delivering to processing vessels (mothership sector – 24%); and vessels that both catch and process (catcher-processor sector – 34%). During this same period, the Pacific Council also imposed a license limitation program for the West Coast groundfish fishery, which limited participation in the fishery to qualified vessels.
To make optimal use of the annual Pacific whiting allowable harvest allocated to the catcher-processor sector, PWCC members negotiated the apportionment of this allocation on a company-by-company basis. The agreement is enforced by a contract signed by the each of the cooperative members. The PWCC fishing cooperative has ended the “race for fish” in the catcher-processor sector, resulting in decreased bycatch and waste, improved product quality , and reduced fishing effort. For example, since formation of the PWCC, only 6 or 7 of the 10 eligible catcher-processor vessels have participated in the fishery, providing a significant reduction in fishing effort. In addition to direct benefits to PWCC members, the cooperative also sponsors scientific research that benefits the West Coast groundfish fishery. PWCC members are assessed a tonnage fee that is used to fund scientific research, including funding stock assessment and bycatch avoidance programs.