FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE APRIL 13, 2017
Bill to Establish National Young Fishermen’s Program Introduced
Initiative Gains Momentum as Reps. Young and Moulton Sponsor Legislation to Empower Next Generation of Commercial Fishermen
Washington, DC – Representatives Don Young (R-AK) and Seth Moulton (D-MA) have introduced the Young Fishermen’s Development Act of 2017 (H.R. 2079), a bill that would establish the first national program to support young men and women entering the commercial fishing industry. The bipartisan, bicoastal legislation, was introduced on April 6 and would provide grants of up to $200,000 (totaling $2 million annually) through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program. H.R. 2079 marks a big step forward in the Fishing Communities Coalition’s (FCC) push to launch the first coordinated, nationwide effort to train, educate and assist the next generation of commercial fishermen. Alaska Marine Conservation Council (AMCC), a member organization of the FCC, has played an integral role in shaping this important legislation and generating diverse support from fishing communities and leaders.
“Alaskans understand that coastal communities rely on strong fisheries and fishermen to thrive,” said Alaska fisherman Hannah Heimbuch, AMCC staff and coordinator of the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network. “This is an excellent opportunity to work with our nation’s leaders to nurture future generations of commercial fishermen, empowering them to be capable business owners, strong community leaders, and providers of sustainably harvested American seafood.”
Despite daunting challenges that have made it harder than ever for young men and women to start a career in commercial fishing—including the high cost of entry, financial risks and limited entry-level opportunities—there is not a single federal program dedicated to training, educating and assisting young people starting their careers in commercial fishing. AMCC recognizes that this is a vital part of supporting the healthy future of coastal communities, families, and the food and opportunity they provide. The legislation introduced this week is modeled after the USDA’s successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which is credited with preparing hundreds of young farmers and ranchers for rewarding careers in agriculture.
“Congressman Young has long been a champion of Alaska’s fishermen, and we thank him for his strong leadership on this vital issue,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “Empowering the next generation of young fishermen is essential to economic opportunity, food security and our entire way of life.”
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have expressed initial support for the legislation, as dozens of FCC members, including commercial fishermen from New England, Alaska, California and the Gulf Coast have met with them to promote this and other priorities of small-boat community-based commercial fishermen.
“This innovative new program is only one effort to preserve fishing heritage and encourage new participation in the industry,” said Young. “Young commercial fishermen are facing bigger challenges than ever before – new barriers to entry, limited training opportunities and a lack of support. This legislation is about supporting the livelihoods of fishing communities in Alaska and across the nation. I’m proud to stand with our young fishermen by introducing this important piece of legislation.”
“The fishing industry is vital to the Sixth District and to our entire region, but we’re at a crossroads,” said Moulton. “This legislation will help to sustain the fishing industry by ensuring that our young people not only have a future in fishing, but are also empowered with the training and resources necessary to thrive in the 21st-century economy. I’m grateful to Congressman Young for his collaboration on this bill and broader efforts to support our young fishermen.”
In addition to building congressional support, the Fishing Communities Coalition and its member organizations intend to meet with representatives from the Trump administration to seek support for the program.
Founded in 1994, Alaska Marine Conservation Council is a community-based, nonprofit organization committed to protecting the long-term health of Alaska’s marine ecosystems and sustaining the working waterfronts of our state’s coastal communities. Our members include fishermen, subsistence harvesters, marine scientists, business owners, conservationists, families, and others who care deeply about Alaska’s oceans.