What is CDQ?

Coastal Villages Region Fund is a part of the Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) program, an economic development program associated with the federally managed fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI).


The CDQ program is designed to:

  • Provide eligible Western Alaska communities the opportunity to participate and invest in fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area
  • Support economic development in coastal communities of Western Alaska
  • Alleviate poverty and provide economic and social benefits for western Alaska residents by creating sustainable and diversified local economies

The CDQ program was authorized under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, section 305(i)(1)(D). This legislation, commonly referred to as the Magnuson-Stevens Act, enables a portion of fishery quotas to be solely used by six non-profit corporations, representing 65 western Alaska communities. CVRF is one of those six entities which manages and administers its CDQ allocations, investments, and economic development projects for the 20 member communities it serves. Over the years there have been amendments to the legislation and changes to the CDQ program; at CVRF, we believe there is more work to be done to ensure the CDQ allocations are fair and balanced. To learn more about the allocation situation, visit the Fair Allocations page. Scroll down to learn more about the history and evolution of the Western Alaska CDQ program.

Milestones in the Western Alaska CDQ Program

1971 Stevens Proposes 200-Mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)

After attending U.N. Law of the Sea discussions, U.S. Senator Ted Stevens proposed legislation in 1971 to unilaterally extend U.S. jurisdiction over fishery resources out to 200 miles. Stevens believed that the Law of the Sea (which included the concept of 200-mile EEZs for coastal countries) would take too long to be ratified and had doubts about the strength of its conservation provisions. In the early-1970s, the major industrial groundfish fisheries off Alaska were dominated by foreign fishing vessels from Japan, Russia, Poland, Korea, and elsewhere.

1976 Magnuson-Stevens Act (200-Mile Law)

The Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (later renamed the “Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act”) was enacted by Congress in 1976 and unilaterally extended U.S. jurisdiction over fishery resources to 200 miles from shore. Senator Stevens and Senator Warren Magnuson (WA) played key roles, as did Congressman Don Young and Congressman Gerry Studds (MA) in the House. Eight regional fishery management councils were created to recommend fishery management plans to the Secretary of Commerce. The North Pacific Council thereafter began work to “Americanize” the federal fisheries off Alaska. Senator Stevens secured an Alaska majority on the North Pacific Council (6 AK members and 5 non-AK members) which created the opportunity for Alaskans to begin to participate in the new federal fisheries.

1980s Pressure in Alaska to Create CDQ Program

Throughout the 1980s, the North Pacific Council provided small amounts of Bering Sea fishery resources to western Alaskans, primarily halibut for small local vessels. While a good precedent, Western Alaska was otherwise largely being left out as joint ventures were giving way to the operation of U.S.-flagged fishing vessels in the Bering Sea. Western Alaskans lacked the capital necessary to enter these fisheries.

1989 Stevens CDQ Bill (S. 1900)

In reaction to calls for help for western Alaska, Sen. Stevens introduced legislation (Section 20 of S. 1900) on November 17, 1989, to mandate the creation of a CDQ program for Western Alaska. More than 10 years after the enactment of the 200-mile law, there was still almost no Alaskan ownership in the Bering Sea fishing fleet. Section 20 of S. 1900 was not enacted, but Senator Stevens’ support for a CDQ program fortified CDQ efforts in Alaska and at the North Pacific Council.

1992 Pollock CDQ Created

In 1991, the North Pacific Council proposed to divide the Bering Sea pollock fishery between the inshore (35%) and offshore (65%) sectors. As part of this package, Alaskan members of the North Pacific Council demanded an allocation of BSAI pollock for Western Alaska. The Council approved an allocation to CDQ of 7.5 percent of the annual total allowable catch of BSAI pollock. “Inshore/Offshore I” was approved by the Secretary of Commerce in time for the first harvest of CDQ pollock to begin in the fall of 1992. The CDQ allocation under “Inshore/Offshore I” was the official start of the CDQ program, establishing the precedent and framework for allocations of other species to the CDQ program. The 1992 CDQ framework was the same basic framework that remained in place for almost 15 years in terms of the preparation of community development plans (CDPs), the involvement of the Alaska Governor in reviewing CDPs and setting allocations among the CDQ groups, and the basic parameters of the CDQ program. While some of the six CDQ groups have restructured since 1992, all six represent the same basic interests as when originally formed to harvest CDQ pollock in 1992.

The allocation of BSAI pollock to the CDQ program was extended once by the North Pacific Council (1995 Inshore/Offshore II), then separated by the Council from the Inshore/Offshore package (and its sunset dates) just before being given permanence and an increase by Congress under the American Fisheries Act (see below).

1995 Halibut and Sablefish CDQ Created

As part of the halibut/sablefish individual fishing quota (IFQ) program approved in 1992 by the North Pacific Council, the Council recommended allocating BSAI halibut and sablefish to the CDQ program. The CDQ halibut and sablefish allocations took effect in 1995.

1996 CDQ Program Added to Magnuson-Stevens Act

Led by Senator Stevens and Congressman Young, Congress enacted legislation (P.L. 104-297, the Sustainable Fisheries Act) to create a new CDQ section of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The new section (section 305(i)(1)) required the establishment of the western Alaska CDQ program and required that a percentage of each Bering Sea fishery be allocated to the CDQ program. Section 305(i)(1) also required the following:

  1. Community eligibility: 50-miles from shore and ANCSA certified
  2. Communities must comply with State of AK criteria approved by Secretary
  3. Communities must consist of residents who conduct more than one-half of their commercial or subsistence fishing in BS or AI
  4. Moratorium on any new CDQ allocations until October 1, 2001
  5. Moratorium on any increases in CDQ allocations until October 1, 2001
  6. Approval by Secretary of the new crab CDQ allocation (7.5%), but with phase-in at 3.5% in 1998, 5% in 1999 and 7.5% thereafter.

Senator Stevens and Congressman Young named the 1996 CDQ amendments after Harold Sparck, a western Alaskan and long-time CDQ proponent and visionary who had recently passed away. Besides creating a new CDQ section of the MSA, the Sustainable Fisheries Act (section 108(h)) also required the National Academy of Sciences to prepare a comprehensive report on the CDQ program (see “The Community Development Quota Program in Alaska (1999)” at www.darwin.nap.edu).

1998 Multi-Species CDQ Created

Allocations of BSAI non-pollock groundfish (cod, mackerel, flatfish, and rockfish) were recommended by the North Pacific Council in the mid-1990s as part of the groundfish and crab License Limitation Program (LLP). CDQ fishing for these “multi-species” groundfish began in 1998.

1998 Crab CDQ Created

Allocations of BSAI crab were also recommended by the North Pacific Council in the mid-1990s as part of the License Limitation Program (LLP). In 1996, Congress directed the Secretary to approve the crab CDQ allocations, but with a phase-in of 3.5% in 1998, 5% in 1999, and 7.5% in 2000 and thereafter. As with CDQ multi-species groundfish, CDQ directed fishing for crab began in 1998. With the addition in 1998 of the crab and multi-species CDQ allocations, western Alaskans were finally participating in all of the major federal groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.

1998 Pollock CDQ Increase

As part of the 1998 American Fisheries (section 206(a)), Congress mandated that the CDQ allocation of BSAI pollock be increased to 10 percent of the annual catch (up from 7.5 percent) and that this 10 percent be treated as a “directed” catch, with additional pollock to be provided to the CDQ program for pollock bycatch needs in other CDQ groundfish fisheries. The purpose of the pollock increase was to compensate for the expected increase in the cost of entry from the fishing quota cooperatives that would be formed under the AFA. By providing more pollock, Congress intended for western Alaskans to be able to continue to expand, in spite of having to now pay to buy “quota” from existing participants.

1998 CDQ Loan Program Created

The AFA not only increased BSAI pollock allocation to the CDQ program, it also created a new CDQ program (section 211(e)) to assist CDQ groups in purchasing fishing vessels and processors in the BSAI pollock fishery. The initial loan authority was for a total of $25 million. None of this loan authority was used, however, due to a combination of excessive agency red tape, the somewhat ready availability at the time of decent private sector loans, and the insistence of NMFS to have preferred mortgage on vessels, even where the CDQ group was only to be a minority owner.

1999 National Academy of Sciences CDQ Report

Under the 1996 Sustainable Fisheries Act, Congress directed the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a comprehensive review of the CDQ program. In its 1999 report to Congress, the Academy/National Research Council recommended the following:

  1. simplify criteria for allocating among the CDQ groups
  2. consider separate “foundation” allocations and “performance” allocations
  3. clarify the purpose of State oversight
  4. stop requiring all CDQ revenue to be spent on fisheries-related projects
  5. create long-term or permanent allocations to the CDQ Program
  6. improve communication between CDQ groups and their communities

2001 Don Young CDQ Legislation (H.R. 553)

In February of 2001, Congressman Don Young introduced legislation (H.R. 553) to amend the CDQ section of the MSA (H.R. 553 was similar to a bill (H.R. 5565) that Rep. Young introduced October 26, 2000 in the final weeks of the previous Congress). While neither H.R. 5565 nor H.R. 553 was enacted, Rep. Young’s proposal helped shape the emerging debate about changes to the administration of the CDQ program. H.R. 553 proposed the following:

  1. Commerce Secretary primary in setting allocations among the CDQ groups
  2. CDQ groups to have a role in determining the allocation criteria
  3. Allocations every 3 years, instead of every 1 or 2 years
  4. Oversight limited to CDQ royalty expenses, not “second generation” expenses
  5. All CDQ allocations treated as “directed” with additional for bycatch

2001 North Pacific Council CDQ Policy Committee Report

A CDQ Policy Committee was formed by the North Pacific Council to address issues related to CDQ oversight by the State and NMFS, and to provide recommendations to the North Pacific Council on changes to the roles of NMFS and the State, the CDQ allocation process, and the administration of the CDQ Program. The CDQ Committee made the following recommendations to the North Pacific Council in June of 2001:

  1. Establish a fixed CDQ allocation cycle of three years
  2. Limit government CDQ oversight to five purposes listed in Committee report
  3. Keep status quo — no “foundation” quota allocation
  4. Use 7 criteria identified in the report for making CDQ allocations
  5. Develop a public comment period for State allocations recommendations and give NMFS bigger role in an appeals forum
  6. Reduce State review and approval for CDQ expenditures, but clarify State oversight of businesses owned by CDQ groups (rebuttable presumption of CDQ control at 50% or greater ownership by CDQ group)
  7. Allow up to 20% of annual pollock royalties to reinvested in non-fisheries projects; require these investments to be in the CDQ group’s region

2002 North Pacific Council Motion on CDQ Program (Amendment 71)

In June of 2002, the North Pacific Council recommended changes to the CDQ Program based on its review of the NAS CDQ study (see above), the CDQ Committee report (see above), Rep. Don Young’s proposed CDQ legislation (see above), proposed State regulations, and public comments. The recommendations were as follows:

  1. Create an expanded State hearing and comment process on allocations among the CDQ groups, but no formal appeals process
  2. Set fixed 3-year allocation cycle with possible mid-cycle adjustments by State for “extraordinary circumstances
  3. Limit government oversight to six purposes identified in Council motion
  4. Make allocations among CDQ groups based on 10 criteria in Council motion
  5. Clarify that government CDQ oversight extends to CDQ-controlled subsidiaries and that control means at least 51%
  6. Allow up to 20% of previous year’s pollock CDQ royalties to be reinvested in “self-sustaining” non-fisheries investments in the region encompassed by all 65 CDQ communities, except that fisheries-related projects would be given greater weight than non-fisheries projects in the allocations among the CDQ groups
  7. CDQ quota and PSQ transfers and fishing plans through NMFS directly

Little of the Council’s motion was ever implemented.

2005 Crab CDQ Increase

As part of the BSAI crab IFQ/IPQ program — which was recommended by the North Pacific Council between 2002 and 2003, and mandated by Congress in 2004 — the CDQ allocation of BSAI crab increased to 10 percent (up from 7.5 percent). Additionally, the crab IFQ/IPQ program created 10 percent CDQ allocations in the Aleutian Islands golden king crab and western Aleutian Islands red king crab fisheries, fisheries in which there had not previously been allocations to the CDQ program.

2005 Rasmuson Blue Ribbon CDQ Panel Report

On recommendation from the North Pacific Council, and in the aftermath of CDQ allocations proposed by the State of Alaska DCED Commissioner Edgar Blatchford, Governor Frank Murkowski appointed a CDQ Blue Ribbon Panel in the Spring of 2005, chaired by Ed Rasmuson. The Rasmuson Blue Ribbon Panel acted swiftly and drew in part from the previous efforts of the 1999 National Academy of Sciences CDQ report and the 2001 CDQ Policy Committee recommendations to the North Pacific Council. The Rasmuson Panel validated the acute need to remove State politics from the CDQ allocations process and to give CDQ groups and their communities greater autonomy while at the same time improving the “transparency” of the CDQ program for western Alaskans. The Rasmuson Blue Ribbon CDQ report was the basis for the amendments requested by CDQ groups and recently enacted by Congress (see below).

2005 Expansion of CDQ Loan Program

In the fall of 2005, Congress enacted amendments (in P.L. 109-108) offered by Senator Stevens to provide $200 million in new loan authority to CDQ groups under the 1998 AFA CDQ loan program. Senator Stevens’ amendments allowed CDQ loans to have terms of up to 30 years and to be used in any of the BSAI fisheries, rather than just BSAI pollock. Subsequent amendments were made by Congress in 2006 (section 416(c) of P.L. 109-XXX (the 2006 Coast Guard Authorization Act)) to, among other things, clarify that the CDQ loans can be used for “the purchase of all or part of ownership interests in fishing or processing vessels, shoreside fish processing facilities, permits, quota, and cooperative rights.” NMFS has just begun to reactivate the AFA CDQ loan program and to incorporate these changes from 2005 and 2006.

2006 CDQ Amendments to Magnuson-Stevens Act

Congress recently enacted comprehensive amendments to the CDQ program in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, based on the Rasmusen Blue Ribbon report. The amendments were requested by the four CDQ groups who represent 96 percent of the Alaskans participating in the CDQ program (BBEDC, CVRF, NSEDC, and YDFDA). The amendments (see section 416(c) of the 2006 Coast Guard Authorization Act (P.L. 109-241)) made the following changes to the CDQ section of the Magnuson-Stevens Act:

  1. Purposes: The amendments expand upon and restate the basic purposes of CDQ program “to provide…western Alaska villages with the opportunity to participate and invest in fisheries in the [BSAI]…to support economic development in western Alaska…to alleviate poverty and provide economic and social benefits…and…to achieve sustainable and diversified local economies in western Alaska.”
  2. Program Allocations: The amendments mandate the continuation of allocations to the CDQ program at current levels and with no sunset date, except that, (A) multi-species groundfish CDQ will increase to 10% once/if quotas or sector allocations are implemented, and (B) the CDQ program will get 10% of any new directed fisheries established in the BSAI
  3. Processing Rights: The amendments explicitly recognize processing rights as part of the allocation of fishery resources to the CDQ program and to each CDQ group.
  4. Regulation of CDQ Harvest: The amendments prohibit CDQ harvests from being regulated more restrictively than for other participants in fisheries with quota systems.
  5. Allocations to CDQ Groups: The amendments mandate a 10-year cycle for the allocations among the six CDQ groups, with first review in 2012 (after the results of the 2010 Census become available). Each CDQ group will continue to receive its current allocations through 2012.
  6. Eligible Villages and Groups: All 65 eligible communities and all six CDQ groups are listed specifically by the amendments in the MSA so that there will be no more confusion, particularly with respect to community eligibility.
  7. CDQ Group Requirements: The amendments require the following with respect to each CDQ group: (A) 75 percent fishermen on CDQ boards, and at least one board member from each community; (B) CDQ group must elect a rep to serve on CDQ Panel; (C) up to 20 percent of CDQ group’s investments can be non-fishery, with other 80 percent either fishery-related or consistent with past practice; (D) each group must submit an annual written statement of compliance to the State and Secretary about its investments; (E) each group must be in compliance with any requirements established by CDQ Panel.
  8. CDQ Group Status/Limitations: The amendments specify that each CDQ group: (A) is subject to BSAI harvesting and processing caps only to the extent of its actual ownership; (B) must comply with State law requiring annual reports to member villages, including expenditures, G&A costs, and its top 5 compensation levels; (C) must comply with State laws to prevent fraud; and (D) shall be exempt from State approval of financial transactions, CDPs, or CDP amendments.
  9. CDQ Panel: The amendments create a CDQ Panel, with one member from each of the six CDQ groups. The Panel’s job is to administer those aspects of the CDQ program not otherwise addressed by the CDQ section of the MSA. The CDQ Panel can implement its decisions either through private contractual arrangements or recommendations to the appropriate governmental entity. The Panel can only make decisions by unanimous consent.
  10. Decennial Review and Allocation Adjustments: During 2012 and every 10 years thereafter, the State will review the performance of each CDQ group based on the following criteria, as weighted by each group to reflect its particular needs and goals: population, poverty level, economic development, financial performance, fishery and non-fishery investments, employment, scholarships, training, and whether the group achieved the goals it set in its own CDP. If the State determines on the record and after a hearing opportunity that a CDQ group has not maintained or improved overall, the State may reduce the CDQ group’s allocation by up to 10 percent, for all or part of the next 10 year period. If a group has maintained or improved overall, the group’s allocations are automatically extended for the next 10 years.
  11. No Federal CDP Approval: The amendments eliminate the requirement that the Secretary of Commerce approves the CDPs and CDP amendments of each group. Each CDQ group will prepare and approve its own CDP.