Alaska Quota Program Provides Jobs and More

crab boat.
Fishermen haul in crabs off the coast of Alaska.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Alaska’s waters support some of the richest crab and fish populations in the world. Using the Community Development Quota Program, NOAA helps coastal communities in Alaska share some of the state’s incredible fishing resources.  

Through careful management and cooperation, Alaska fish and crab resources provide jobs for more than 50,000 commercial fishers and processing workers per year. Commercial fishing revenue tops $1.3 billion for the state. The crab industry alone is worth $140 million to Alaska.

Developed in 1992 by NOAA, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and the State of Alaska, this innovative quota program was designed to share some of these resources with western Alaskan communities — improving their social and economic conditions by sharing some of the benefits of commercial fisheries.

Program participants receive fixed shares, or quota, for more than 20 different fish and crab species. Sixty five communities, with populations ranging from a few dozen residents to several thousand, participate in the Program.

alaska harbor.
Dutch Harbor, Alaska, was ranked number one in the nation for the volume of fish landed in 2006.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

The Community Development Quota Program has helped previously struggling communities revitalize and grow. Historically, many of these communities had limited economic opportunities, paid high transportation costs, and struggled to overcome other challenges due to their remote locations.

The Program created jobs for western Alaska community residents, including internships with business partners or government agencies, employment on fishing vessels and in seafood processing plants, and a variety of management and administrative positions. It also put many participants on successful career tracks. Many Program participants are Alaska Natives who participate in traditional subsistence hunting and fishing activities. The seasonal nature of many program-related jobs enables them to continue these activities.

How the Program Works

Participants either lease some quotas to various harvesting partners, or catch and sell some fish and crab quotas themselves. Program quotas are set each year based on fisheries stock assessment information.   

men sorting crab.
Fishing vessel's hold loaded with crab.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

In 2006, program allocations included 415 million pounds of groundfish, two million pounds of halibut, and almost six million pounds of crab. In 2005, the Community Development Quota Program earned approximately $134 million.

Revenue generated by the Program recycles back to Alaskans through development projects and additional investments. As the Program enters its 16th year, managers use it as a model for success in discussions about fisheries management, providing economic opportunities, and enhancing the quality of life for coastal Americans. NOAA logo.