Western Alaska Community Development Association Marks 20th Anniversary

The Western Alaska Community Development Association paid tribute March 30 to more than a dozen individuals who contributed heartily to the program’s progress over two decades, helping to grow the economy of fishing communities dotting the shores of Western Alaska.

The accolades went to a list of individuals well known in Alaska’s commercial fisheries circles, from the late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, to former North Pacific Fishery Management Council chairman Rick Lauber of Juneau, the late Harvey Samuelsen, of Dillingham and former Alaska fisheries czar Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove.

Those gathered at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage had much to celebrate regarding the success of the Community Development Quota program, established in 1992 by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The plan was to provide economic opportunity for some 27,000 people in 65 fishing communities dotting the coast of Western Alaska by addressing the issue of high unemployment, while giving these coastal residents access to fisheries.

The program does not depend on any direct government funding, but rather on the ability of the six CDQ groups to harvest that 10 percent of the Bering Sea resources, including Pollock crab and halibut, allocated to them under the program.

Initially the program, authorized under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, was managed by the state of Alaska. Since 2006, under amendments to that federal legislation, the Western Alaska Community Development Association has been the umbrella group for the six CDQs: Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, Coastal Villages Region Fund, Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association, and Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation.

In 2010 alone, the six CDQ entities generated revenues of more than $414.5 million with operating expenses of about $178.8 million, resulting in an increase in net assets of more than $235.7 million, WADCA reported in its latest report. These revenues have funded critical infrastructure for these communities, development of local fisheries, training and scholarship programs, grant programs and social services in CDQ member communities.

The program has also enabled residents of Western Alaska to gain employment on vessels that fish for the CDQ quotas, in local fish plants built with the support of harvest revenues and in myriad other jobs associated with and supported by the CDQ program. And the benefits keep on coming.