The Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC)s it is thrilled that, for the first time since it was enacted, the Young Fishermen’s Development Act (YFDA) has received federal funding. Congress has directed $1,000,000 to fund YFDA in the recently passed $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23). The FCC thanks House and Senate champions and appropriators for making this victory possible.
“This $1 million investment in the Young Fishermen’s Development Act is a great step toward supporting our young fishermen and strong American fisheries for the future,” said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of FCC-member, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association,
FCC members have seen an increase of ten years or more in the average commercial fishermen’s age over previous generations, and rural coastal communities have lost 30 percent of local permit holders. To address this ‘graying of the fleet’, FCC members worked with House and Senate members more than seven years ago to first develop the Young Fishermen’s Development Act (YFDA).
Modeled after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program, YFDA is a workforce development grant program administered by NOAA Sea Grant aimed at providing both classroom and on-the-water training and education, as well as connect young and beginning fishermen with accomplished captains for mentorship.
“We’re grateful that these funds will be available to support the next generation of hard working commercial fishermen,” added Eric Brazer, Deputy Director of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance. “The future of American seafood is in good hands.”
This funding will help future fishermen tackle the ever-increasing challenges facing commercial fishermen in the U.S. With our nation’s commercial fisheries generating more than $200 billion in sales and supporting 1.7 million jobs per year, the return on this federal investment will be enormous.
Ben Martens, Executive Director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, stated, “With this funding, we can now give the next generation of Maine fishermen the tools they need to provide sustainable, delicious seafood to our communities for years to come. We greatly appreciate the leadership and support of Maine’s delegation on this issue.”
While YFDA is a first-of-its-kind national program for commercial fishermen, it follows in the footsteps of numerous successful regional-level initiatives, many of which were spearheaded by FCC members.
Stephanie Sykes, one of many fishermen who traveled to Washington DC to advocate for YFDA, helped start a small pilot Fishermen Training Program for the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, a founding member of the FCC.
She is gratified to see the program begin to see the funding it deserves, particularly as the “buy local” movement continues to gain strength the demand for the catch of day-boat fishermen has increased. “There are many successful commercial fishing businesses on the water and there is a lot of opportunity and need for more in the future,” she said. “This funding is critical to the success of the Cape’s small-boat fleets and our coastal communities that rely on commercial fishing.”
The FCC thanks the House and Senate for recognizing the value and importance of America’s commercial fishermen in including this language in the final FY23 spending package. We are thrilled with this significant step forward to ensuring future generations of American fishermen not only survive in the face of current challenges facing the industry, but thrive.
Added Theresa Peterson, Fisheries Policy Director for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, “Young fishermen throughout our Nation’s fishing communities will benefit from workforce development programs designed to meet their unique needs. We’re excited to see Congressional commitment to support the next generation of fishermen.”