This year marks the launch of the Fisheries Leadership Project, a Northwest Fisheries Association program designed to cultivate interest in marine trades in the Seattle area.

Jeb Towne, CFO for Global Seas, and Val Motley, executive director of the association, developed the program in response to industrywide concerns about waning interest in maritime jobs among young workers.

“It started with people saying, ‘We need more fishermen on fishing boats in Alaska.’ But we’re going to need more processors, more people in the office, more brokers,” Towne said. “We’re trying to tackle a younger generation to expose them to unique assets and opportunities in the industry. We want to show them how we catch fish, process it and bring it to a plate.”

Towne hopes to expand beyond Seattle into Alaska as the program grows.

“This concept was originally started by Hugh Reilly, NWFA’s Person of the Year in 2017,” Towne noted. “He seeded us with money to start this project.” The association then got to work raising sustaining funds from local fishing and seafood companies, accepting applications and kicked off the program this year with two one-day sessions. The first class drew 11 applicants and nine participants.

“In May, we started out in our office at Global Seas, looking over Pier 91,” Towne said. The group then headed to Trident’s R&D facility to get a glimpse at new product development and do some tasting. Next was a tour of American Seafoods’ factory trawler American Triumph, docked at Pier 91. While they were at the pier, they toured the Lineage cold storage facility before heading to Foss Shipyard to see the Bering Defender in drydock and touring the yard to round out a full day at the Port of Seattle.

“We didn’t want to have them in a classroom or board setting,” Towne said.

The September session included a presentation by Alaskan Leader Seafoods, a tour of IPC’s cod processing to see the connection between Alaskan Leader’s presentation and the tech used to send the cod through the processing line for filleting and portioning. Next were Vigor Shipyard, Jensen Maritime Consultants, Northstar Energy and a sit-down with an insurance broker and banker to talk about industry investment and risk.

“We want to end it with Pacific Marine Expo, the largest of its kind in the industry,” Towne said. “When people leave our program, they’ll have a network of contacts.”

The Fisheries Leadership Project team will tour Expo on Thursday, Nov. 21, including hosting an informational session in the National Fisherman booth at 3 p.m. Also on Thursday, at 11 a.m., Stephanie Jones Stebbins and Dave McFadden from the Port of Seattle will present on significant investments coming for port infrastructure and development. The port presentation will take place on the Main Stage.

Jeb Towne hosts the Fisheries Leadership Project conference session at Pacific Marine Expo on Thursday, Nov. 21, at 3 p.m. in the National Fisherman Booth, #733.

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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