A national coalition of community-based, small-boat commercial fishermen is hailing a congressional decision to include $1 million to fund the Young Fishermen’s Development Act (YFDA) in the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package for fiscal year 2023.
Members of the Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) worked with members of Congress for more than seven years to develop the YFDA, which is modeled after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program.
The YFDA is itself a workforce development program administered by NOAA’s Sea Grant program.
The funds are expected to help fishermen of the future tackle increasing challenges facing commercial fishermen in the United States. With the nation’s commercial fisheries generating more than $200 billion in sales and supporting 1.7 million jobs annually, the return on the federal investment would be enormous, the FCC has said.
Veteran commercial harvester Linda Behnken, who’s the executive director of FCC member Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, called the $1 million investment in YFDA a great step toward supporting young fishermen and strong American fisheries for the future. FCC members have noted an increase of 10 years or more in the average age of commercial fishermen over previous generations, and coastal fisheries communities have lost 30% of local permit holders.
Veteran commercial harvester Theresa Peterson, who’s the fisheries policy director for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, said the funds would benefit workforce development programs designed to meet the unique needs of young harvesters.
Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, said the funds would help give the next generation of Maine fishermen the tools they need to provide sustainable, delicious seafood to their communities for years to come.
“There are many successful commercial fishing businesses on the water and there is a lot of opportunity and need for more in the future,” said Stephane Sykes, one of many harvesters who traveled to Washington DC to advocate for YFDA. Sykes helped to start a small pilot Fishermen Training Program for the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, a founding member of FCC.