Photo credit: ALFA


The call is out to apply for Crew Training for young people who want to learn the fishing life firsthand .

It’s the fourth year that the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka has hosted the program which has drawn over 120 applicants each year. So far it’s brought aboard nearly 35 new boots on deck by more than 25 skippers; 64 more have gotten advance on-shore training.

 “We provide an opportunity for young folks to either do more of a short term experience or long term. Traditionally, a lot of our apprentices or crew member trainers are on longliners and trollers, but we do offer a shorter term experience, maybe on a gillnetter or a seiner, maybe just for a day or even a week to just see how that goes. So there are both short and long term. And last year, we actually did have a couple recent high school graduates who went out on a tender for the season.”  

Seafood Auction

Natalie Sattler is  program and communications director for ALFA and its Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust. Funding for the program comes from the National Fish and Wildlife Federation and Alaska Community Foundation Workforce Development. And while it attracts interest in the U.S. and globally, a priority is recruiting young Alaskans, especially from rural regions.

“We have shared a lot of our supplier resources and tools with other organizations. Recently, I’ve been speaking with folks in Bristol Bay who want to start something up, and we’ve shared our resources with Sea Grant. And as part of our funding and in grants that are part of this program, part of our requirement to is to share these resources and try to get it going in other communities as well.”

Sattler says many crew members return each year to fish with the same skippers. One is troller Eric Jordan who spearheaded the training program on his own in 2015 prior to ALFA’s role. He has so far mentored over 50 young fishermen aboard his troller, 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 love 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 also trains the young deckhands who are interested in fishing policy and management. So far 30 emerging apprentices have contributed to the process through written or oral testimony.

The fishing apprentices are paid for their work. The minimum age is 18 and the deadline to apply for the Deck Hand Training program is March 1.