A program to train new deckhands is in the works. The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka just received a grant for more than one hundred and forty thousand dollars from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to develop a statewide Deckhand Apprenticeship Program. Alyssa Russell, ALFA’s outreach coordinator says the program began with longtime Troller Eric Jordan.
“He started on his own, taking out folks for short-term crew jobs, he called it “experiential trolling”. He would basically take out anyone who wanted to try fishing for whatever amount of time that they were available.”
Russell says Jordan took over 23 people fishing in the first few years. ALFA saw it as an opportunity for people that want to experience life on deck.
“So in 2015, we decided to take his structure and make it a more formal ALFA program and try to rope in other skippers to try and bring out deckhands to try fishing.”
To jump-start and better shape the program some of the grant money will go toward a curriculum for skipper training.
“We want to give skippers the tools they may need to mentor someone. For instance, safety procedures, we are going to have a packet that includes things like a crew contract, and just basic checklists of boat protocol for someone who has never been on a boat before.”
Captain Eric Jordan says he has the vision to create new fishermen and seafood ambassadors.
“Finding Crew with some experience, who loves fishing in Alaska, is so critical to the future of our individual businesses in the industry as a whole. One of the things this program provides is the taste of it. So deckhands know they like it, and skippers can recommend them for future employment. It is a win-win for the crewmembers and the skippers.”
Jordan says he is inspired by the enthusiasm of budding fishermen. He shares a quote from one.
“Crewing was a dream come true. I had never been commercial fishing before; I had never even killed a fish. The days were filled with learning and fun. I learned how fishing works, the lifestyle about salmon and a lot more.”
The grant is being used to develop materials and protocol for skippers and crew, with the goal to expand the program statewide.
Learn more about the Deckhand Apprenticeship Program at ALFA.org.