The Young Fishermen’s Development Act, signed into law in early January, will establish $2,000,000 in yearly grant funding to support educational and training programs for young individuals who want to get into commercial fishing. The bill was sponsored by U.S. Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska) and Jared Golden (D-Maine), with U.S. Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Aumua Amata (R-American Samoa) signing on as initial cosponsors.
Organizations at the federal, state and local level are eligible for funding. The program was initially proposed in 2015 by the Fishing Communities Coalition, an association representing fishermen from Alaska to Maine. Eligible organizations could receive funding to pair beginners with retiring vessel captains through mentorship programs or teach them in a shoreside setting on topics such as seamanship, navigation, entrepreneurship, regulations, permitting, finance, vessel maintenance and repair, and sustainable fishing practices.
In a statement Rep. Golden noted that the average age of lobstermen and scallop fishermen is over 50. “The future of the fishing industry depends on young people learning the ropes right now,” he said. “The Young Fishermen’s Development Act takes important action to help young Mainers get ready for fulfilling careers in fishing and lobstering so they can stay in Maine, build our economy, and support our communities. I’m proud that this bipartisan bill is now law.”