The Bearing Sea Pollock fishery is a multimillion-dollar industry with an annual harvest of approximately 2.9 billion pounds. In 1992, the Pollock fishery experienced explosive growth. The resulting attraction to the fishery eventually reduced the amount of openings for new fleet members due to a limited amount of licenses. As the communities of Western Alaska had traditionally relied on the fishery as their only cash economy, a potentially stifling situation had arisen. Even before the fishery's boom, employment rates for Western Alaska were as high as 31 percent.
Soon after this development phase, state and local officials began to formulate a plan to enable greater participation by the 56 communities in question. The Community Development Quota Program (CDQ) was the result of that effort. This program offered qualifying residents the rights to a percentage of the total allowable catch of Pollock for their direct benefit. Approximately 7.5 percent of the annual catch would be allotted for competitive application by eligible applicants of the coastal communities along the Bering Sea.
These applications were required to include community development plans, detailed business plans and descriptions of how quotas would be monitored and managed. At the outset of CDQ, the 56 communities banded into six groups. As these groups had little capital or experience to be put towards the physical harvesting of the fishery, they took on industry partners. These industry partners paid a lease fee for the right to harvest Pollock through CDQ. These royalties were then used by CDQ groups to implement the projects and investments outlined in their initial applications.
Since the program's inception in 1992, fifteen independent subsidiary ventures have been formed with over 55 million dollars in assets and average gross revenues of 18 million dollars.
CDQ itself has earned over 86 million dollars in revenues for the development of the western Alaskan economy, trained over 2,000 citizens, and provided over 4,000 jobs (primarily seasonal). These developments have yielded over 18 million dollars in wages for citizens of western Alaska.