Opinion: Young Fishermen’s Development Act needs support

Young people in Alaska face mounting challenges to entering commercial fisheries.

  • Friday, September 13, 2019 7:00am
  • Opinion

Young people in Alaska face mounting challenges to entering commercial fisheries. Limited entry programs have reduced the size of the commercial fishing fleet and raised the cost of entry. Increased pressure on natural resource has led to increased regulation, creating what can be a complicated maze of rules ready to ensnare the unprepared. Marketing fish offers new opportunities, but also complex logistics and expensive pit-falls. Finally, global warming and ocean acidification ensure that the oceans of the future will be even less predictable — and almost certainly less productive — then the present. In short, young fishermen need to know how to catch fish, but they also need to know how to manage a business, stay up to date on ever evolving regulations, and of equal importance, they must learn how to become effective advocates for the ocean, healthy fisheries, and their own sustainable fishing business.

Four years ago, Eric Jordan started invited young people with no background in fishing to work on the back deck of his troller, for a week, a month or a season, and to learn not only practical skills from this experience but also the importance of advocating for the ocean. Eric’s work dovetailed with the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association’s (ALFA) Young Fishermen’s Initiative, which aims to support entry level fishermen through innovative technology, skillbuilding workshops and low risk loans. In 2017, ALFA and Eric combined efforts to launch a crew apprentice program. As interest grew, ALFA engaged six more local skippers in the program, and now ALFA sifts through over 100 applicants each year to offer 14-16 young people a first-time commercial fishing opportunity. ALFA works to support next steps for these young crewmembers, and the rest of our membership, by offering workshops on subjects ranging from new marine electronics to bookkeeping, electrical systems, fisheries management and hydraulics. Over the past two years, hundreds of local fishermen have participated in these programs.

Not surprisingly, young people in communities around the nation face similar challenges. Surprisingly, no federal program currently exists to support education and training for young fishermen. A program is in place for farmers, ranchers and aquaculturists, but not for young fishermen. That needs to change.

Last year, the Young Fishermen’s Development Act was introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate. The act would use fines paid by fishermen who violate fishing laws to fund regionally appropriate education and training for young fishermen by working through locallybased organizations. ALFA strongly supports the Young Fishermen’s Development Act. If passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law, the YFDA will provide funding for education and training to help young fishermen navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead. You can help us realize this opportunity by contacting Alaska’s congressional delegation and voicing your support for the Young Fishermen’s Development Act. And while you are at it — urge them to take immediate action to address Alaska’s climate crisis!

• Linda Behnken is executive director of Alaska Longline Fishermens Association in Sitka and Tara Racine is the organization’s communications and program development coordinator. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.

More in Opinion

Opinion: We are all each other’s Island Trader

We’re entering a long phase, where we need to figure out collectively what the duration looks like.

In this May 22, 2018 photo, Eric Forrer, left, and Joe Geldhof, right, discuss their lawsuit against the state of Alaska to stop a plan that calls for borrowing up to $1 billion from global bond markets to pay oil and gas tax credits owed by the state. (James Brooks | Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Why I sued the state over the constitutionality of the release of federal funds

The threat of unconstitutional solutions to political problems will escalate.

Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

Opinion: Alaskans can move on from fossil fuels and flatten the climate curve

What we do in the decade ahead will determine whether we can… Continue reading

Opinion: COVID-19 harms children in seen and unseen ways

Children can get COVID-19, but the pandemic presents risks that go beyond direct effects.

Juneau City Hall on Monday, March 30, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Is ‘We Are All in This Together’ a slogan or reality?

To provide some relief for the property owners in the CBJ, now is the time to reduce property taxes.

Robin O. Brena is a life-long Alaskan who grew up in Skagway, a longtime oil and gas attorney with Brena, Bell & Walker, the former Chair of the Oil and Gas Subcommittee for Gov. Bill Walker’s Transition Team, and the Chair of Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share. (Courtesy Photo | Robin O. Brena)
Opinion: Major oil producers thrive, while Southeast suffers

It is time for Alaskans to take back our fair share of revenues.

Fog drifts through the trees in the Tongass National Forest on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)
Opinion: Pressure Perdue to make the right call on the Tongass

Another attack on the integrity of the Tongass National Forest is likely… Continue reading

Most Read