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Coastal Villages Region Fund wants fishery quota changes

Hannah HeimbuchThe Arctic Sounder
Kathy Hough, NOAA photo

The Coastal Villages Region Fund is asking leaders of the Community Development Quota Program to change its policies on allocating shares of fisheries resources.

CVRF, which represents 20 of the 65 CDQ villages on the Bering Sea shore, is asking that CDQ allocations be distributed by population. Current policies, they said, do not allow for fair distribution of CDQs.

“The injustice in allocations has gone on for 20 years,” said CVRF President John O. Mark of Quinhagak in a release. “We can no longer sit back and let it continue. We can do more to improve the lives of our community members with fair CDQ allocations.”

CVRF represents roughly more than a third of the 28,000 residents who live in CDQ villages. That one-third population has some of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the state, CVRF statistics say, and often a lower per capita income than other CDQ villages.

Mark and other CVRF leaders are hoping that by making fishing allocations more equitable, they can improve quality of life and prosperity in their member villages.

“The CDQ Program is for the people,” said Mark. “We are hopeful the residents from the other CDQ villages will be sympathetic to CVRF’s concerns and join us in seeking an equitable formula that can be defended for the future.”

'Penalized for working together'

The CDQ Program was created in the early 1990s. Some villages, like the 20 members of CVRF, chose to band together in a single CDQ group. Others chose to form smaller CDQ groups made up of the residents of an individual village.

According to the CVRF, the villages that developed smaller CDQ groups are allocated more fish per CDQ resident than the larger groups. The two largest groups are CVRF and the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation.

“We have effectively been penalized for working together,” said CVRF Vice President Richard Jung of Napakiak in a release. “If Napakiak had joined with fewer villages, maybe we would have received as much CDQ fish per resident as St. Paul or Atka or Emmonak. We shouldn’t be penalized for working well together for our people.”

Flawed allocations?

In Scammon Bay, said board member James Akerelrea, residents just up the coast in Alakanuk receive nearly three times the crab and cod CDQs per resident than its CVRF neighbors. That inequity, Akerelrea said, is unjustified.

“All of the CDQ groups have acknowledged in the past that the allocations are flawed,” said CVRF Executive Director Morgen Crow. 

CVRF leaders are asking that the CDQ program be reassessed by its executors and that consideration of local opinion be taken into higher consideration when adjusting policy.

“There is a time when the next generation will take our place to represent our 20 member villages,” said Harry Tulik, CVRF Board Member from Toksook Bay. “We are pursuing to lighten their burden by correcting the imbalance in the CDQ resource allocation.”

CVRF is the largest source of jobs in the 20 villages it represents and the first CDQ coalition to own and operate the fishing vessels that harvest its CDQ allocations.

This article was originally published in The Bristol Bay Times and is reprinted here with permission. Contact Hannah Heimbuch at hheimbuch(at)reportalaska.com.