Legislation establishing the first ever national program to train, educate and foster the next generation of commercial fishermen has been approved by both houses of Congress.
The Young Fishermen’s Development Act aims to help mitigate challenges facing the next generation of commercial fishermen by supporting regional training and apprenticeship programs. The legislation, modeled after similar agricultural programs, will provide competitive grant funds and support for state, tribal, local or regionally based networks or partnerships.
This would include programs such as the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association’s crew apprenticeship program and Sitka Fishermen’s Expos.
Advocacy for such legislation dates back to 2015, when it was proposed by the Fishing Communities Coalition a national advocacy group which represents over 1,000 independent fishermen and business owners from Maine to Florida to California and Alaska. The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, a founding member of FCC, and others have spent the past five years working with Congress to develop the YFDA. The legislation directs the National Sea Grant program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish a Young Fishermen’s Development Grant Program, to offer training education outreach and technical assistance initiatives for young fishermen.
The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen, Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and in the House by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.
“Commercial fishing demands a broad skill set to operate safely and successfully,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of ALFA. “We are thrilled by passage of the YFDA.” She credited Alaska’s congressional delegation for their effort to move the legislation through Congress.
Veteran harvesters at ALFA noted that even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic new entrants to commercial fishing aced significant challenges, including the high cost of entry, financial risk and limited entry-level opportunities.
The pandemic itself amplified those challenges, adding significant cost to fishing and processing fish during a pandemic in a way that kept both harvesters and processor workers safe.
ALFA is a Southeast Alaska alliance of small boat owners and commercial harvesters who promote sustainable fisheries and the economies of coastal communities through collaborative research, advocacy and education.