WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today welcomed the signing of the Young Fishermen’s Development Act, legislation to mitigate the challenges facing the next generation of entrants into the fishing industry by supporting regional training opportunities and apprenticeship programs. Congressmen Don Young (R-Alaska) and Jared Golden (D-Maine) were the lead sponsors of the legislation in the House.
“Just like the proud men and women of the agriculture sector, Alaska’s fishermen work tirelessly to harvest a valuable renewable resource that feeds our country and the world,” said Senator Sullivan. “The Young Fishermen’s Development Act will build on the success of the USDA’s farmer and rancher development program and invest in the next generation of fishermen by lowering the barriers of entry, expanding training opportunities, and harnessing the experience and wisdom of our more seasoned fishermen. I thank my congressional colleagues and the President for championing our bill to reverse the ‘graying’ of the fishing fleet and ensure Alaska remains the unquestioned superpower of seafood.”
“While our fishing industry is a vital and historic part of Massachusetts’ coastal economy, we cannot let it become lost to history,” said Senator Markey. “This valuable program will help more young people push off the dock into new careers in the fishing industry, powering the economy and our local communities. I thank my colleagues for their partnership on this bill, which will help ensure that our fishing industry continues to attract and grow future generations of young fishermen.”
“Alaska’s world-class fisheries and seafood producers are vital to the economic prosperity, cultures, and traditions of those in our state. On a global scale our fisheries are unmatched, and we must continue to support a strong, capable workforce to help sustain them,” said Senator Murkowski. “I appreciate Senators Sullivan and Markey for their leadership on this legislation to remove barriers that prevent young people from entering the commercial fishing workforce. The new federal program created by this bill – dedicated to training, educating, and financially assisting the next generation of commercial fishermen – will strengthen economic prosperity, food security, job recruitment, and retention across the state.” 
“Today is a great day for the future of commercial fishing in our state. I am grateful to President Trump for signing the Young Fishermen's Development Act into law, and I want to sincerely thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for supporting its passage,” said Congressman Young. “Young commercial fishermen are facing bigger challenges than ever before – new barriers to entry, limited training opportunities, lack of support, and now, a global pandemic. Fishing is important, not only to Alaskan culture, but to our rich history. Our legislation is about supporting the livelihoods of fishing communities across the nation by making the next generation aware of the opportunities available in the commercial fishing industry. This is a tremendous victory, but my work on behalf of our fishing fleet is not done. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated our fishermen, processors, and countless others who depend on a thriving seafood industry. Now that the 117th Congress has begun, I want our fishermen to know that I will continue fighting for a safe and prosperous future for this vital sector."
“We are thrilled by the passage of the Young Fishermen’s Development Act,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) and recipient of the 2020 Heinz Award for the Environment. “This bill provides important support for education and training of young people entering America’s fisheries. Alaska’s Congressional delegation played the lead role in advancing this legislation, building bipartisan support for an important industry and Alaska’s number one private sector employer. ALFA, along with our coalition partners at the Fishing Communities Coalition, have worked with Congress for the past two years to reach this outcome and today we are celebrating a brighter future for our industry and our young fishermen. Huge thanks to Senator Sullivan, Senator Murkowski, Congressman Young, and their hard-working staff!”
“Until now, federal programs for young American harvesters have been limited to those who farm and ranch. Investment is needed for young food producers across the nation, as fewer and fewer young people are choosing to harvest food for a living,” said Marissa Wilson, executive director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. “This is a deeply troubling trend known in the fisheries as the ‘Graying of the Fleet,’ and a robust study with the same name showed that the issue in Alaskan communities is not a lack of interest in the lifestyle. The increasing amount of resources and knowledge it takes to run a profitable fishing business in the twenty-first century is formidable. Investing in opportunities for young fishermen to hone their skills will benefit our local food systems, communities and oceans. The grassroots nature of the implementation of this program ensures this.”
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 success of 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 (USDA) 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.