Congress approves bill to train prospective fishermen

December 22, 2020 GMT

SITKA, Alaska (AP) — A bill to establish the nation’s first ever federal program to train prospective commercial fishermen has passed Congress and awaits approval by the White House.

The Young Fishermen’s Development Act was passed unanimously by both the U.S. House and Senate, the Sitka Sentinel reported Monday. The law would provide grants to foster the growth of budding fishermen across the country.

The bill introduced by Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan in 2019 had bipartisan support, with co-sponsors that included Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Democratic U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, both of Massachusetts.


The fishermen program was first floated in 2015 by the Fishing Communities Coalition, a national advocacy organization that represents at least seven fishing groups across the country.

That organization and its members, including the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, had worked with lawmakers on drafting the legislation, which would direct the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish a program to educate future commercial fishermen.

“Young people entering our nation’s fisheries deserve support to succeed in this challenging but vital business,” said Linda Behnken, the executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “Commercial fishing demands a broad skillset to operate safely and successfully. We are thrilled by passage of the YFDA and grateful for the effective leadership provided by Alaska’s Congressional delegation in moving this Act through Congress.”

Behnken said aspiring fishermen currently face many challenges in trying to break into the industry, including the high cost of equipment, limited entry-level opportunities and complications spurred on by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This year, those challenges have been amplified as the ongoing pandemic continues to devastate America’s commercial fishermen and fishing communities, and jeopardize our country’s food security and supply chains,” Behnken said.

Behnken said this program would help alleviate some of those barriers.