Sullivan, Markey, Murkowski Applaud Senate Passage of Young Fishermen’s Development Act

U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) applauded the Senate’s passage of the Young Fishermen’s Development Actlegislation to mitigate the challenges facing the next generation of entrants into the fishing industry by supporting regional training opportunities and apprenticeship programs.

“Alaska is the unquestioned superpower of seafood, thanks to our world-class, sustainably-managed fisheries and our countless hard-working fishermen,” said Senator Sullivan. “The sustainability and endurance of this vital industry, which employs more people in Alaska than any other, depends on up-and-coming qualified fishermen. I thank my Senate colleagues for passing our legislation to reduce basic barriers to entry through new grants, training opportunities and apprenticeship programs. Helping the next generation of Alaskans enter our fisheries will help ensure Alaska remains the superpower of seafood.”

“Despite centuries of fishing tradition in Massachusetts’s coastal communities, new fishermen are finding it a challenge to join the industry,” said Senator Markey. “Our legislation will help ensure that our fishing industry continues to attract and grow future generations of young fishermen. More young men and women will be pushing off the dock into new careers and fully participating in the economy of their communities. I thank my colleagues for their partnership on this hopeful legislation and look forward to enacting it into law.”

“I appreciate Senator Sullivan leading this effort and am glad to once again join him in addressing some of the barriers facing young people as they try to join the commercial fishing fleet. This legislation will support education, training, and workplace development of future fishermen and help maintain sustainable fishing careers, strengthen food security, and encourage future generations of Alaskans to pursue jobs in this important industry,” said Senator Murkowski. “It is my hope that enactment of this legislation will help us pass down the values and lifestyles that fishing has woven into the fabric of our state.”

The United States is among the leading fishing nations in the world, generating more than $200 billion in sales and supporting 1.7 million jobs per year. The positive impact of U.S. commercial fisheries on the economy largely reflects the effective laws put into place under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and the collective efforts of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, regional fisheries management councils, and stakeholders to sustainably manage U.S. fisheries. 

In recent years, incoming generations of commercial fishermen seeking to enter the industry have met new challenges and higher barriers to entry, contributing to several shifts in the demographics of commercial permit holders. In several regions, commercial fisheries have seen an increase by 10 years or more in the average participant’s age over the previous generation of fishermen, and rural communities have lost 30 percent of local permit holders. Several studies suggest this “graying of the fleet” has led to an increase in financial capital and risk needed to enter into the commercial fishing industry.

Modeled after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, this legislation creates the first federal program dedicated to training, educating, and assisting the next generation of commercial fishermen. The Young Fishermen’s Development Program would include:

  • A competitive grants program for collaborative state, tribal, local, or regionally-based networks or partnerships.
  • A mentorship/apprenticeship program to connect retiring fishermen and vessel owners with new and beginning fishermen.
  • Financial support for local and regional training and education in sustainable and accountable fishing practices, marine stewardship, and business practices, and technical initiatives that address the needs of beginning fishermen.

The Young Fishermen’s Development Act will now be considered by the House.