Future fishermen will get training assists from Uncle Sam.                               Credit: akonthego.com



US fishermen will soon be eligible to receive training and financial benefits long enjoyed by farmers and ranchers.

The Young Fishermen’s Development Act is poised to be passed this week with a simple House voice vote because it has so much support, according to Congressman Don Young’s office.

The Act was introduced in 2019 by Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan. It easily passed the Senate last Friday.

Modeled after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program that can be traced back to 1862, it creates the first federal program dedicated to enabling future generations of fishermen.

Linda Behnken is director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka, one of a national coalition who helped herd the Act through Congress.

“Young fishermen not only have to know how to catch fish, they have to keep track of a fairly complex regulatory world in fisheries. And as small businessmen, they also have to be able to make sound decisions about how much money to borrow and how to grow their businesses, when to invest in updates in new technology, improvements to the vessel. There are so many challenges. And while there is a federal program to support training and education for farmers and ranchers and even people going into aquaculture, there’s no comparable program for fishermen or people going into wild capture fisheries.” 

This bill directs the National Sea Grant office under NOAA to establish a program to provide training, education, outreach, and technical assistance for young fishermen. Eligibility includes associations, tribes, universities and other mentors.

The $2 million program will be paid out over six years and is funded by fishing fines – so in a way, fishermen are picking up the tab themselves.

By comparison – mandatory federal backing for ranchers and farmers, including mariculture, is $15 million for this fiscal year, $20 million the following year, and $25 million by 2023.