Bipartisan Push for Young Fishermen's Development Act in New Congress

Legislation to Support Future Fishermen Introduced in House, Senate

Washington, D.C. – A bipartisan House and Senate coalition has introduced the Young Fishermen's Development Act (H.R.1240, S.496), legislation that would establish the first national program to support young men and women entering the commercial fishing industry. The strong show of bipartisan support early in the 116th Congress indicates positive momentum for the Fishing Communities Coalition’s (FCC) initiative. 

Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Senate bill; Representatives Don Young (R-AK), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Jared Golden (D-ME), and Amata Radewagen (R-American Samoa) co-authored the House bill. 

“Young Mainers need opportunities for good-paying jobs that stay here in Maine,” said Rep. Jared Golden (ME-2). “Preparing them to enter our fishing industry is just common sense. Our bill provides training and resources to Maine’s next generation of commercial fishermen, helping them get their sea legs and support our coastal economies. I’m focused on supporting Maine’s heritage industries and bringing good-paying jobs to communities across our state.”

“The next generation of commercial fishermen is essential to the future of Maine’s fishing communities and others like them across the country,” said Ben Martens, Executive Director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, a member of the FCC. “This legislation will help ensure our future fishermen have the training and tools necessary to succeed in an increasingly complicated and rapidly changing fishing industry. We are proud and grateful that Maine’s entire congressional delegation is taking a strong leadership role on this vital issue.”

First introduced in 2017, the Young Fishermen’s Development Act (YFDA) is modeled after the USDA’s successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which is credited with preparing hundreds of young farmers and ranchers for rewarding careers. Young fishermen representing FCC members from every U.S. coast have traveled to Washington, D.C., to urge legislators to support the initiative.  

“Ensuring new generations of Alaskans fill the ranks is vitally important to our fishing economy, which employs more in our state than any other industry,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan (AK). “I’m excited to again sponsor legislation that will help lower the high barriers to entry with training opportunities, new grants, and an apprenticeship program that will connect seasoned fishermen with determined newcomers.”

“Young commercial fishermen are facing bigger challenges than ever before – new barriers to entry, limited training opportunities, and a lack of support,” said Rep. Don Young (AK-At Large). “Fishing is important not only to Alaskan culture but is central 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. I’m proud to stand with our young fishermen by introducing this important piece of legislation.”

“Young fishermen face enormous challenges, yet there is currently no federal program to support education and training for the next generation of commercial fishermen,” said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, a member of the FCC. “To excel, the next generation of commercial fishermen must develop a broad range of skills. They must be proficient in navigation, business management, hydraulics, diesel mechanics, fisheries management - and, of course, they need to know how to catch fish! Alaska’s fishing communities are grateful to Congressman Young for introducing and shepherding this important legislation through the House and to Senators Sullivan and Murkowski for their leadership in the Senate.”  

"Fishing is one of the oldest jobs there is, but the industry is changing rapidly with the evolution of our economy,” Rep. Seth Moulton (MA-6) said. “Congress needs to step up so a new generation of Americans in Gloucester and in communities across the country can access the skills and technology they need to succeed as commercial fishermen. I’m grateful to Representatives Young and Golden for their collaboration on this bill and in broader efforts to support the sustainable commercial fishing industry and the communities where fishing isn't just a job, but a way of life."

“Fishermen today are entrepreneurs in a complicated industry, so they need to know a lot more than how to find the fish,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of The Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “We appreciate Congressman Moulton’s leadership, with strong bipartisan support, to equip the next generation of fishermen with the training they need to continue providing sustainable seafood to the American public.”

Check out FCC’s video, A Future on the Water, featuring hardworking, small-boat commercial fishermen telling their stories and discussing the importance of the YFDA.