Coastal Villages Region Fund, the state’s largest Community Development Quota group, has been asking for more fish for their fishermen. It would require Congress amending the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. In response, Alaska’s congressional delegation says before pursuing changes to fishing allocations they would need a consensus.
The delegation sent a letter to the CDQ’s umbrella organization, Western Alaska Community Development Association which states, “while we remain open to hearing from the CDQ groups, we expect any issue brought to us for resolution to be supported unanimously by all six groups.”
Senator Lisa Murkowski says a consensus is not only important, it’s required.
“It is actually stated in the authorizing legislation,” Murkowski says.
It says that any changes to the CDQ plan are done with consent.
“It’s very difficult back here in D.C. to get changes made to programs that are unique and specific to one state, in this case, specific only to Alaska,” Murkowski says. “It’s difficult to get those changes unless there is consensus.”
But Dawson Hoover, spokesperson for Coastal Villages Region Fund, says they see it differently.
“What the delegation is basically telling CVRF is you don’t deserve the $10 million you’re supposed to get,” says Hoover.
CVRF maintains that they aren’t getting their fare share of fishing allocations. The organization serves 20 villages in the Lower Kuskokwim region, one of the poorest in the state. They have 9,300 residents, thousands more than most other CDQ groups and believe they should also have more fish.
Their halibut season just wrapped up. It took two and a half weeks to take their allocation of 210,000 pounds. Hoover says that’s 185,000 pounds less than what they deserve.
“And the residents aren’t happy, they’re not happy that they cut their season short,” Hoover says. “And we should still be fishing now but we’re not getting our fair share.”
CVRF earns about $100 million a year but they could be making more, according to Hoover. The catches of halibut along with pollock, crab and cod, pay for programs to develop the economy in Lower Kuskokwim villages, such as subsidizing the salmon fishery.
If allocations changed the way CVRF wants them to, some other smaller groups would get less fish. The Aleutian Pribolof Island Community Development Association serves six remote communities and about 390 people. This year, they are allowed about 354,000 pounds of halibut which would likely decrease in the future.
Besides CVRF, one other CDQ group-the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation-would profit from an allocation change by approximately $10 million a year. They serve about 9,000 residents in 15 communities in Northwest Alaska.
Tyler Rhodes, spokesperson for the Norton Sound group, says their board of directors doesn’t think the allocations are perfect but they don’t want to seek any changes right now.
“Engaging in an allocation battle is currently not in the best interest of NSEDC nor is it for our constituents,” Rhodes says.
He says since the allocations were set in 2006 the group has had a great deal of success.
CVRF will continue to push for an allocation change. Red t-shirts with the slogan, “Just Fix CDQ” on the front have been cropping up in the Bethel region. Hoover says it’s what the residents are asking for and, eventually, the delegation will have to listen.