Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bipartisan Legislation Pushes to Help Young Fishermen

A bipartisan, bicoastal effort is under way in the US Senate to provide young fishermen with more training opportunities, including an apprenticeship program.

The Young Fishermen’s Development Program legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, and Maria Cantwell, D-Washington. Similar legislation was introduced earlier in the House by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.

The legislation has support from the Fishing Communities Coalition, an association of community-based small boat commercial fishing groups representing more than 1,000 independent fish harvesters and business owners from Maine to Alaska.

FCC member organizations include the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, who have joined the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance in support of the legislation.

“From what we have seen in Alaska, we believe that the kind of mentorship and training opportunity that this bill would provide is key to helping new fishing operations get off the ground and onto the water,” said Linda Behnken, a veteran longline harvester from Sitka, and executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

The Young Fishermen’s Development Program would offer competitive grants for collaborative state, tribal, local or regionally based networks or partnerships, and a mentoring/apprenticeship program to connect retiring fishermen and vessel owners with young fishermen.

The bill would also provide financial support for local and regional training and education in sustainable and accountable fishing practices and marine stewardship, business practices and technical initiatives that address the needs of beginning fishermen. Also included would be a $2 million annual authorization for six years for program implementation.

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