The “Young Fishermen’s Development Act” was signed into law on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. The goal of the act is to “preserve United States fishing heritage through a national program dedicated to training and assisting the next generation of commercial fishermen.” The bill received bipartisan support and was championed by Reps. Young (AK), Moulton (MA), Golden (ME), Pingree (ME), and Radewagen (AS), and by Sens. Sullivan (AK), Murkowski (AK), Markey (MA), Collins (ME), King (ME), and Cantwell (WA).
The bill addresses challenges faced by new entrants in the fishing industry. Under the new law, competitive grants will support local and regional initiatives supporting fishermen across the nation. Eligible initiatives may include programs, workshops, and services for fishermen on a range of topics, including seamanship, marketing, fisheries management, and more. Implementation is anticipated in 2022 through the National Sea Grant Office.
Alaska has several programs that support professional development and training for the fishing industry. For example, Alaska Sea Grant’s FishBiz program supports financial management training for fishermen in all stages of their business, with a special emphasis on assisting new entrants in analyzing business opportunities. Another Sea Grant program is the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit, a biennial event training new commercial fishermen in the business and management of sustainable commercial fishing. The next Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit is planned for January 2022.
The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association’s (ALFA) Young Fishermen’s Initiative is another program that supports new fishermen. ALFA Executive Director Linda Behnken was recently awarded the 2020 Heinz Award for the Environment in recognition of her work to support sustainable fishing and fishing communities in Alaska. ALFA and the Fishing Communities Coalition were leaders in advocating support of the new bill.
“The fishing industry is the largest private employer in Alaska,” said Ginny Eckert, Alaska Sea Grant Director. “We look forward to continuing to support this industry through Alaska Sea Grant and the University of Alaska, and it’s exciting to see support at the national level through this new grant program.”