Communities in Alaska join forces to buy out crab industry partners

Published on
January 7, 2021

Thirty coastal Alaska communities, the Coastal Villages Region Fund (CVRF), and the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation (BBEDC) announced on 7 January the buyout of Seattle-based Mariner Companies.

The acquisition, according to a release from the organizations, constitutes 3 percent of the total opilio and red king crab quota. In addition to the quota, the CVRF and BBEDC will acquire full ownership of seven crabbing vessels from the company, which is majority-owned by Kevin Kaldestad and Gordon Kristjanson.

Through the agreement, the company will sell crab quota valued at USD 35 million (EUR 28.5 million) to 30 coastal communities in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and Bristol Bay regions. The CVRF and BBEDC will then provide support to the communities to purchase the quota and harvest it through fishing operations.

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

According to the release, the BBEDC has been a “long-time partner in the Maritime Companies,” and through the new purchase will become complete owner of four crab vessels: the Aleutian Mariner, Bristol Mariner, Nordic Mariner, and Pacific Mariner. The CVRF is purchasing the other three vessels: the Arctic Mariner, Cascade Mariner, and Western Mariner.

The CVRF is oriented around fostering “sustainable and diversified local economies” in Western Alaska, through developing long-term economic opportunities for the region’s roughly 9,300 residents.

“We are excited to support the communities’ direct ownership of the fishery and the funding it can contribute towards the critical needs they have,” CVRF CEO Eric Deakin said. “Rural Alaska continues to face high poverty rates and lack of access to resources, and there is a growing need for services in the YK Delta and Bristol Bay regions, which this deal will help address. We welcome a new generation of Alaskan owners and operators fishing the Bering Sea and improving livelihoods here.”

The BBEDC’s goals are similar and serves 17 member communities in the region, aiming to also enhance the economy of the communities it operates in through utilizing revenue earned from investments in the Bering Sea groundfishing industry, and royalty payments from the Western Alaska Community Development Quota – which was established in 1992.

“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,” BBEDC CEO Norman Van Vactor said. “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. Kevin, Gordon, and our crews have been amazing partners over the years and while we are sad to see them exit, their next chapters are well deserved. We look forward to continuing their examples of stewardship of this resource for generations to come.”

Kaldestad said the purchase puts the vessels and the crab quotas into good hands.

“We’re happy to be passing the future of these companies to local communities, our long-time partner BBEDC, and CVRF,” he said. “We know they will all be excellent stewards of this resource and hope that the enterprise we’ve built will serve their residents for many years to come.” 

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