Applicants sought for ALFA apprenticeship program

Concerns over the graying of the fleet have prompted creative efforts to teach more young people the art of commercial fishing, through a crewmember apprenticeship program offered by the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka.

Applications are being accepted through March 1. Complete information is online at http://www.alfafish.org/apprenticeship/.

ALFA was awarded a $70,000 grant in late 2017 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to expand its Sitka program and support efforts to launch similar programs in other parts of the state.

Grant money, leveraged with support from the city of Sitka and ALFA members, came from NFWF’s Fisheries Innovation Fund, for the benefit of fishermen and local communities by promoting healthy fish stocks and healthy fisheries.

“The future of our fisheries is dependent on young fishermen learning to love and care for the fish we harvest and the habitat essential to their well-being,” said Eric Jordan, a Sitka harvester who has introduced more than three dozen young people to commercial fishing over the past three years aboard his boat, the F/V I Gotta. Jordan schools the young deckhands in intricacies of commercial salmon trolling, sustainable fishing practices and encourages a strong conservation ethic.

Over the next two years, ALFA plans to expand the program to include more vessels, skippers and crewmembers, helping other communities to replicate its model.

“With support from NFWF, we plan to expand the program to include more boats, crew and communities,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of ALFA. “Giving young people an introduction to Alaska’s commercial fisheries will help sustain our fishing communities and create the next generation of resource stewards.”