ANCHORAGE,AK - For more than 50 years, Alaska’s Bering Sea has supported the world’s most productive
fisheries. Since statehood and the enactment of the Magnuson‐Stevens Act, Alaskans
acquired a role in managing these fisheries and made them the most sustainable in the
world. However, for most of this time, Alaskans watched from our shores as foreign ships
and then the Seattle fleets caught the fish and sold it into world markets. This finally
began to change in 1992, when the North Pacific Fishery Management Council created
the Western Alaska Community Development Quota program.
The CDQ program provided a mechanism for the federally managed fisheries to support
an economy on Alaska’s shores. Its success has been remarkable: CDQ has generated
hundreds of millions of dollars in local wages, education, training benefits and other
economic development for some of the most impoverished regions of our state. Moreover,
CDQ is designed to play a long-term role, slowly creating new opportunities that will
generate benefits for years to come. Today, the CDQ groups represent significant direct
ownership of the U.S. Bering Sea pollock fleet, which has been the backbone of the
program’s success.
Since 2008, I have represented Napakiak on the board of Coastal Villages Region Fund,
a CDQ group serving 20 villages and over 9,000 people in Western Alaska. In 2015, I was
elected by my fellow board members to serve as their chairman, and it has been an honor
to work with my 19 elected colleagues to create and sustain economic opportunities for
the people of our region. In 2014 alone, CVRF invested over $28 million into our region,
through strategically designed projects and programs intended to facilitate the creation
of jobs and real economic opportunities in some of Alaska’s poorest areas.
Increasing economic development opportunities in the CVRF region, and across the
CDQ territory as a whole, will become increasingly important as the state works to
solve a historic budget deficit. With a $3.5 billion budget shortfall this year alone, and
savings accounts that will soon be depleted, all options are going to be on the table –
from taxes to budget cuts – when the Legislature begins its regular session in January.
Whatever solutions are ultimately adopted will hit rural Alaska the hardest. Planning
for a sustainable fiscal future during tough times requires hard choices, but we have
opportunities now to take steps to mitigate the consequences. Maintaining a healthy
and vibrant CDQ program will ensure that Coastal Villages Region Fund and our CDQ
brethren continue to support our communities during these difficult economic times,
and for generations to come.
by Richard Jung, Chairman
Learn more about Coastal Villages Region Fund at
www.coastalvillages.org and follow us on Facebook
at www.facebook.com/CoastalVillagesRegionFund
CDQ groups are in a unique position to affect economic development in the regions
and villages we represent, and we should further leverage those efforts by partnering
with others who share the same goal. We have seen it work -- in the small community
of Platinum on the western coast of Alaska, collaboration between private industry and
the state of Alaska allowed fresh Goodnews Bay salmon to be flown direct to domestic
markets by an Alaska-owned fishing company. In 2013, CVRF and the state of Alaska
joined forces to extend and widen the runway in Platinum. This critical project promotes
safer travel to and from the village, but also enabled CVRF to partner with another Alaska
company -- Lynden Transport -- in 2015 to take advantage of a short-lived fresh salmon
market that would not have been accessible prior to the improved runway. We hope to
cultivate additional collaboration between the CDQ regions, the industry and the state
because profits resulting from our joint efforts in cases like Platinum will be reinvested
back into the region in the form of benefits, jobs and opportunities for our people.
For generations, the people of western Alaska have lived off the abundance of the
Bering Sea. Today, our fishers fish our waters and harvest the resource it provides.
The pollock, cod, crab, salmon and halibut we bring to markets across the world help
fuel the economies that provide jobs that result in real wages for real people who must
provide for real families. In our region, it has led to the creation of over 1,300 wageearning
opportunities each year on average. In addition to employment opportunities,
our Bering Sea revenues have funded scholarships for our young adults, critical
equipment for village life at affordable prices, job opportunities for youth and young
adults, funds to help facilitate village projects such as building renovations, public safety,
trail markers and emergency shelters, home heating oil relief, household expenses relief
for elders and much more.
You can learn more by visiting www.CoastalVillages.org
Alaska is facing some tough choices ahead, but there shouldn’t be any question
that continuing to strengthen the CDQ program needs to be a top priority of state
and federal officials.