The following is courtesy of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association:
SITKA, ALASKA – Today, the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) and commercial fishermen around the country are cheering the passage of the Young
Fishermen’s Development Act (H.R. 1240, S. 496), which passed in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. The bipartisan bill, introduced by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in the Senate and Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) in the House, passed unanimously in both chambers of Congress and establishes the first ever national program to train, educate, and foster the next generation of commercial fishermen.
The Young Fishermen’s Development Act (YFDA) was first proposed in 2015 by the Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC); a national advocacy group that represents over 1,000 independent fishermen and business owners from Maine to Florida to California and Alaska. ALFA – a founding member of FCC – and others have spent the last five years working with members of Congress to develop the YFDA, which directs the National Sea Grant in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish a Young Fishermen’s Development Grant Program to provide training, education, outreach, and technical assistance initiatives for young fishermen.
“Young people entering our nation’s fisheries deserve support to succeed in this challenging but vital business,” said Linda Behnken, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) executive director. “Commercial fishing demands a broad skillset to operate safely and successfully. We are thrilled by passage of the YFDA and grateful for the effective leadership provided by Alaska’s Congressional delegation in moving this Act through Congress.”
“Alaska is the unquestioned superpower of seafood, thanks to our world-class, sustainably-managed fisheries and our countless hard-working fishermen,” said Senator Sullivan. “The sustainability and endurance of this vital industry, which employs more people in Alaska than any other, depends on up-and-coming qualified fishermen. I thank my colleagues for passing our legislation to reduce basic barriers to entry through new grants, training opportunities and apprenticeship programs. Helping the next generation of Alaskans enter our fisheries will help ensure Alaska remains the superpower of seafood.”
Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were immense challenges for new commercial fishing entrants, including high cost of entry, financial risks, and limited entry-level opportunities. This year, those challenges have been amplified as the ongoing pandemic continues to devastate America’s commercial fishermen and fishing communities, and jeopardize our country’s food security and supply chains.
This legislation will help mitigate the challenges facing the next generation of commercial fishermen and entrants into the fishing industry by supporting regional training opportunities and apprenticeship programs. Modeled after similar agricultural programs, the act will provide competitive grant funding and support for state, tribal, local, or regionally based networks or partnerships
The YFDA will support programs such as ALFA’s crew apprentice program and Sitka Fishermen’s Expos. “We look forward to expanding our Young Fishermen programs and supporting other communities in launching similar initiatives.” Behnken added.
Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association is an alliance of small-boat, commercial fishermen who promote sustainable fisheries and thriving coastal communities through collaborative research, advocacy and education. www.alfafish.org
Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust is a non-profit dedicated to strengthening fishing communities and marine resources through research, education and economic opportunity. www.thealaskatrust.org