PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ A request to allow Soviet fishermen to catch whiting off the West Coast this year was rejected Wednesday by the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The council voted to ask Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige to prohibit Soviet whiting fishing unless the Soviets agree to allow U.S. fishermen to catch about half the whiting processed in Soviet vessels offshore, a spokesman said.

''Whiting is a low-grade fish as far as the U.S. public is concerned, but it's sold on the world market to countries willing to buy it,'' said Henry Wendler, staff officer for the council. Because few U.S. processors will handle whiting, ''the only way U.S. fishermen can get into it is to go the joint-venture route,'' he said.

Applications for Polish and Japanese whiting fishing were approved for U.S. waters off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. However, the council rejected Poland's request to catch 60,000 metric tons of whiting itself while taking only 10,000 tons from U.S. fishermen.

The Soviets asked permission to catch 80,000 metric tons of whiting this year. The Japanese request did not specify a catch amount. Applicants from all three nations also have asked to fish in the Pacific north of the Washington- British Columbia border.