A coalition of 30 communities, the Coastal Villages Region Fund and the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation has come together to buy the Seattle-based Mariner Companies.

Through the agreement, the Mariner Companies will sell crab quota valued at $35 million to the communities in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and Bristol Bay regions. The Coastal Villages Region Fund and the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., both of which participate in Alaska's community development quota program, provided support to the communities to purchase the quota, and will support the harvest through their fishing operations.

The Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. is a longstanding parter in the Mariner Companies. This deal will expand its ownership to 100 percent of four crab boats — the Aleutian Mariner, Bristol Mariner, Nordic Mariner and Pacific Mariner. Coastal Villages will purchase the Arctic Mariner, Cascade Mariner and Western Mariner.

“The growth process in this transaction has been a great opportunity to collaborate with CVRF in a unique way that benefits the communities we serve,” said Norman Van Vactor, CEO of the development corporation. “After 30 years, this is a prime example of how to successfully evolve the CDQ program, providing significant economic growth opportunities for rural Alaska communities.”

The Bering Sea opilio crab season is currently open, which means participating communities can expect a return as soon as this spring, the coalition said in a prepared statement

"We welcome this opportunity as a step to becoming self-sustaining," said Hattie Albecker of Ugashik.

The Community Development Quota Program was developed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in 1992 to provide an avenue to investment and allocation of regional Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area fisheries for western Alaska villages to support economic development in western Alaska; alleviate poverty and provide economic and social benefits for residents of western Alaska; and achieve sustainable and diversified local economies in western Alaska.

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 16 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute's Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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