Hayley Hoover of Cordova, Alaska                Credit: Salty Girl Seafoods

The call is out for Alaskans interested in learning firsthand about commercial fishing.

It’s the third year for the Crew Training Program hosted by the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka. Over 213 have applied so far from all over the country and 25 deckhands and 20 skippers have participated so far.

 “It’s very exciting to see so many young people interested in entering the commercial fishing industry. You always hear about the graying of the fleet but for me it shows that the interest is out there. Young people just need these resources to explore and get involved.”

 Tara Racine is ALFA’s communications and program development coordinator.

ALFA received a $70,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to launch the program and to support similar crew apprenticeships in Alaska.  Additional grants came from the Edgerton Foundation, the City and Borough of Sitka, the Alaska Community Foundation.

“We are hoping to share any information and lessons that we’ve compiled and learned and material we’ve created from this program and give it to anyone else interested in doing a program like this.”

Most of the recruits have gone out on longline and troll boats and Racine says plans include expanding to seiners and gillnetters in a flexible fishing schedule.

“We have some short term and long term programs. It could be just a couple of days and the people just want an intro and that’s what the skippers have the availability and time for. We also have plenty of individuals who go out for the entire season or several weeks at a time.”

The rookies are paid for their work and Racine says skippers are eager to show them the ropes.

The skippers that are interested are looking for reliable crew and are wanting to mentor the next generation of resource stewards and skilled fishermen. So not only are they training the pool of young people in our area to become deck hands, they also are ensuring the life of this industry that they love and is so important to our coastal communities.”

Troller Eric Jordan has mentored over 40 young fishermen aboard the I Gotta. He says the future depends on them learning the right ways to care for the fish.

“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.” 

The program will grow depending on skipper participation. Applicants must be 18 or older to apply. The deadline is February 28.