Representatives Don Young (R-AK) and Seth Moulton (D-MA) have introduced the Young Fishermen’s Development Act of 2017 (H.R. 2079), a bill that would establish the first national program to support young men and women entering the commercial fishing industry. The bipartisan, bicoastal bill, which would provide grants of up to $200,000 (totaling $2 million annually) through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program, marks a big step forward in the Fishing Communities Coalition’s (FCC) push to launch the first coordinated, nationwide effort to train, educate and assist the next generation of commercial fishermen.
“Young commercial fishermen are facing bigger challenges than ever before,” said Rep. Young (AK). “This legislation is about supporting the livelihoods that support entire fishing communities in Alaska and around the country. I am extremely proud to stand up with them.”
Despite daunting challenges that have made it harder than ever for young men and women to start a career in commercial fishing – including the high cost of entry, financial risks and limited entry-level opportunities – there is not a single federal program dedicated to training, educating and assisting young people starting their careers in commercial fishing. The legislation introduced in Congress is modeled after the USDA’s successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which is credited with preparing hundreds of young farmers and ranchers for rewarding careers in agriculture.
“Congressman Young understands the challenges young fishermen face, and we thank him for his strong leadership on this vital issue,” said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “Empowering the next generation of young fishermen is essential to economic opportunity, food security and our way of life.”
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have expressed initial support for the legislation, as dozens of FCC members, including commercial fishermen from New England, Alaska, California and the Gulf Coast, have met with them to promote this and other priorities of small-boat community-based commercial fishermen.
“Representatives Moulton and Young understand that the success of young fishermen is vital to the survival of fishing communities in New England and across the country,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “We look forward to working with them on this important effort to ensure the next generation of commercial fishermen are on the water and ready to sustainably harvest America’s seafood.”
“The fishing industry is vital to the Sixth District and to our entire region, but we’re at a crossroads,” said Rep. Moulton (MA). “This legislation will help to sustain the fishing industry by ensuring that our young people not only have a future in fishing, but are also empowered with the training and resources necessary to thrive in the 21st-century economy. I’m grateful to Congressman Young for his collaboration on this bill and broader efforts to support our young fishermen.”
At the end of the month, young fishermen representing FCC members from every U.S. coast will travel to Washington to encourage Congress to pass this important legislation.
The Fishing Communities Coalition is the united voice for small-boat, community-focused, commercial fishermen from around the country who strive to bring their stewardship vision to bear on national issues. We believe that together, fishermen from around the United States who believe in community-focused ideals, science-based management and forward-looking policies can build a national movement that protects fish, fishermen and fishing communities for this and future generations.