IN MAJOR MEASURE, CALIFORNIA'S FISHING INDUSTRY WAS FOUNDED ON "WETFISH."+ Larger Font | + Smaller Font
So called because these fish were conveyed from ocean to can with minimal processing, wet from the sea, sardines, mackerels, anchovy and market squid, as well as coastal tunas, have contributed the lion’s share of the commercial catch in California since before the turn of the 20th century. Today sardines, jack and Pacific mackerel, anchovy and market squid are called Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS), for management purposes. Another link among these species: all are harvested primarily with round-haul nets (lampara and purse seine).
The complex of fisheries that comprises the wetfish industry has shaped the character of California’s culture in addition to the infrastructure of California’s fishing industry. Immigrant fishermen of Asia, Italian, Slavic and other nationalities helped to build the fishing ports of Monterey and San Pedro, San Diego and San Francisco, as well as points in-between.
Although changed in many ways from its historic beginnings, the wetfish industry remains an important part of California’s fishing industry. Now as then, the industry has supported research to conserve and sustain wetfish resources, an integral component of the California Current Ecosystem and essential to the survival of this storied industry.
The non-profit California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA) was established in 2004 to promote sustainable fisheries and foster cooperative research. Voluntary membership includes the majority of wetfish harvesters and processors operating in California. For more information on CWPA, view the background information in The Industry Today.
CWPA sponsored this website to serve a dual purpose: first, to acknowledge the important contributions of the wetfish industry to California, past and present; and further, to provide a deeper understanding of its operation and activities. With such understanding comes the hope that this traditional, colorful part of California history will continue and prosper far into the future.