New program would help offer education, training and funding

In April, Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) introduced legislation that would establish a national program to support young people looking for careers in the commercial fishing industry.

If passed, the Young Fishermen’s Development Act of 2017 would authorize up to $200,000 in competitive grants through NOAA’s Sea Grant program to create and support existing regional industry training programs.

“Young commercial fishermen are facing bigger challenges than ever before — new barriers to entry, limited training opportunities and a lack of support,” said Young. “This legislation is about supporting the livelihoods of fishing communities in Alaska and across the nation. I’m proud to stand with our young fishermen by introducing this important piece of legislation.”

The training initiatives would focus on day-to-day fishing skills like vessel and engine care; electronics; navigation; at-sea safety; big-picture industry knowledge like fisheries management council processes; fishing gear technology; and general business topics like risk management, marketing and good business practices.

All of this knowledge is typically passed down from generation to generation as future captains and boat owners work their way up from greenhorn deckhand. The program, while not discounting entry-level work experiences, would formalize the way information and educational resources are passed down and made accessible.

The legislation is modeled after the Department of Agriculture’s New Farmers program.

“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 needed to thrive in the 21st-century economy,” said Moulton.

A group of young fishermen from Alaska visited Washington, D.C., last summer on an East Coast trip and lobbied their legislators and relevant committee heads to advocate for the program. That was before the bill had been finalized. Young fishermen from multiple regions are expected to do the same throughout the summer this year.

The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans in late April.

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Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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