Bill would offer education for young fishermen

Legislation that would authorize up to $200,000 in competitive grants through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program to support new and established education, outreach and technical assistance initiatives for young fishermen has been introduced in the U.S. House.

The Young Fishermen’s Development Act, introduced as S.496 in the Senate and H.R. 1240 in the House, addresses the continuing decline in younger Americans entering the commercial fishing industry. It would create the first ever national grant program to boost the next generation of commercial fishermen.

Support for the bipartisan effort in several states includes Alaska’s congressional delegation.

“Young fishermen face a host of challenges when entering our nation’s fisheries these days – they need to be smart business people, savvy about hydraulics, electronics and diesel mechanics, well-schooled in management regulations, tuned in to marketing opportunities – and of course, they need to know how to catch an take care of fish,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, a member of the national Fishing Communities Coalition.

“There is currently no federal program in place to support education and training for our nation’s young fishermen. The Young Fishermen’s Development Act will change that,” she said.

The legislation to create a competitive grant program is modeled closely after the Department of Agriculture’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program.