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

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. 

Shutdown Creates Headwinds for Commercial Fishermen

Shutdown Creates Headwinds for Commercial Fishermen

Furloughs Halt Fisheries Permits and Projects; Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Management Program Implementation Faces Uncertainty

Washington, D.C. – America’s fishing communities are feeling the negative effects of the ongoing partial federal government shutdown, with key fisheries resources — including quota transaction approvals necessary for some fishermen to get on the water — cut off due to furloughed staff and shuttered offices.  

The shutdown has also disrupted National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) quota monitoring and stock assessments in locations across the country, deprived Coast Guard members of their paychecks, and imperiled the timely implementation of a critical state recreational red snapper management program in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We appreciate everything NMFS is doing while they’re forced to operate incredibly short-handed, but this federal shutdown is hurting Gulf Coast fishermen and coastal fishing communities from Texas to Florida, and may derail a sustainable management plan for the Gulf’s iconic red snapper fishery,” said Eric Brazer, Deputy Director of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance. “Commercial fishermen, charter fishermen, and private recreational anglers have spent years working to reach common ground, and now this shutdown could delay the sustainable solution that private anglers have been looking for.”

The Gulf red snapper plan is part of a long list of harmful shutdown impacts facing the U.S. Commercial Fishing & Seafood Industry, which generated $144 billion in sales and supported 1.2 million jobs in 2016.*

“Alaska’s fishermen are feeling the pain of the shutdown, and the consequences become more serious every day it continues,” said Linda Behnken of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA). "We are working to help young fishermen gain access to local fisheries, but that access depends on government workers being at their desks to process transfers and manage fisheries — none of which is happening right now."

 NMFS furloughs have disrupted or halted the review and approval of Exempted Fishing Permits (EFP), quota transfers that fishermen depend on to earn a living, economic development grants, stock assessments and key scientific studies, and assessments necessary to maintain America’s sustainable fisheries, among other impacts.

 “With critical cooperative research and exempted fishing permits on hold, the Cape’s fishermen are facing uncertainty due to the shutdown,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “The absence of staff needed to input landings data and monitor quota presents a significant risk of fishermen going over quotas, threatening the health of our fisheries and the long-term financial well-being of our commercial fishermen.”

 “New England’s fisheries rely on the federal government to ensure fishermen can get off the docks and catch the seafood we all love,” said Ben Martens, Executive Director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association. “With an extended shutdown, livelihoods, on the water accountability, and the sustainability of our marine resources will all be put at risk as stock assessments and management priorities, and necessary rulemakings become impossible with new constraints and timelines.” 



*NOAA Fisheries: Fisheries Economics of the United States, 2016

New Congress Presents Opportunity for Bipartisan Progress on Sustainable Fisheries Policy

Commercial Fishermen: New Congress Presents Opportunity for Bipartisan Progress on Sustainable Fisheries Policy  

Community Fishermen Urge Lawmakers to Stand Up for Sustainable Fisheries, Young Fishermen

Washington, DC – With the 116th Congress set to take office in January, members of the Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) are urging lawmakers in Washington to defend sustainable marine fisheries management and conservation gains under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

“Supporting the men and women who make a living on the water by ensuring the sustainable management of America’s fisheries has always been a bipartisan endeavor,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “America’s commercial fishermen expect the next Congress to work in good faith to advance science-based fisheries legislation and defend the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which has demonstrated remarkable success in rebuilding fish stocks in U.S. waters.” 

Earlier this year, NOAA Fisheries reported that the number of fish on the overfished list reached an all-time low in 2017, thanks to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Efforts to gut America’s primary marine fisheries law fell flat earlier this year in the face of bipartisan opposition. The failed push was led by well-financed corporate interests, including foreign engine and yacht manufacturers.

“Fisheries policy must protect America’s marine resources and strengthen fishing communities, not advance corporate agendas,” said Dwayne Oberhoff, Executive Director of the Morro Bay Community Quota Fund. “We look forward to meeting and working with members of the 116th Congress to ensure a sustainable fishing future for American consumers and the men and women working hard every day to provide them with locally harvested, sustainable seafood.”

The Fishing Communities Coalition’s seven member organizations, representing over 1,000 fishermen from Maine, Cape Cod, the Gulf of Mexico, California, and Alaska, also urged lawmakers to back efforts to empower young commercial fishermen.    

“Young men and women looking to start a career in commercial fishing face daunting challenges, including high cost of entry, financial risks, and limited entry-level opportunities,” said Theresa Peterson, Fisheries Policy Director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. “Breaking down the high barriers to entry for the next generation of commercial fishermen is critical to the very survival of our fishing communities.”

National Seafood Month: Securing America's Fishing Future

National Seafood Month: Securing America's Fishing Future

October is National Seafood Month, the perfect time to recognize the men and women who work tirelessly to sustainably harvest healthy and delicious seafood. 

Commercial fishermen, seafood consumers, and businesses across the country depend on the responsible, science-based management of U.S. fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Congress must resist well-financed, short-sighted efforts to weaken our nation's foundational fisheries law. The stakes are too high to turn back the clock. 

What’s at stake? Check out the following videos featuring members of the Fishing Communities Coalition



A Fish Story: Frozen is Fresh




On the Brink: The Lynchpin of New England’s Fisheries

On the Brink: The Lynchpin of New England’s Fisheries

By Ben Martens

Atlantic Herring, while small in stature, loom very large in New England’s marine economy.  These teeming schools of silver forage fish serve as the lynchpin of the marine ecosystem as they are the food that sustains a wide range of species including tuna, cod, striped bass, sharks, marine mammals and birds. Herring is immensely important to the ecosystem, it is also used as a source of bait for many fishermen, with the majority of that flowing into Maine’s $500 million lobster fishery. Which if lost, would be devastating for the state.

That’s why all New Englanders – particularly the men and women who earn their livelihoods on the water – should be deeply alarmed by the latest assessment of regional herring stocks, which confirms the fishery is on the verge of collapse.  

The decline of Atlantic herring represents an existential threat to many New England fisheries and the fishing families who depend on them for their livelihoods. Without food in the ocean, without bait in the traps, the ecosystem and the entire fishing economy of new England begins to crumble. Because of this, commercial fishermen have been calling for stricter accountability, better data, and proactive management for over a decade to protect the bottom of the marine food web. Decisive action should have been taken to ensure that abundant forage and bait was protected in the waters off New England’s coast. Unfortunately, the small gains made only delayed, and were not enough to prevent, a fishery that is on verge of collapse.

We missed opportunities previously, let’s not miss the one that is before us today.

Thanks to nearly 15 years of work by fishermen, public officials and everyday citizens who care deeply about New England fisheries, the New England Fishery Management Council will meet in Plymouth, MA on September 25 to vote on new management measures. The vote will hopefully prevent the collapse of Atlantic Herring and begin the long, slow process of rebuilding the foundation of the ocean food web. Included in these measures are regulations that would force large industrial trawlers offshore and a change in the scientific process that would establish a baseline of management for forage considerations.

It is deeply unfortunate that this situation has been allowed to reach a crisis point. In the 1960s, foreign trawlers practically wiped out herring in the region. Our fishermen and fishing communities bore the brunt of the devastating impact as the collapse of herring reverberated throughout the rest of the ecosystem. In response, Congress created a 200-mile limit for foreign fleets, but even then, it took close to two decades for herring to rebound.

Today, we have even more to lose and it is our own mismanagement that is allowing it to happen. In New England, we have put strict regulations in place to control fishing effort on species like cod, bluefin tuna, and haddock but continue to ignore the importance of protecting what those species need to eat – herring.  Catch levels have skyrocketed by tons upon tons based upon poor science and with no regard for the consequences we are now facing. The piper has now come to collect what he’s due.

Scientists have analyzed the data. New England’s herring stock is in dire straits.

The Council must act to protect New England’s fisheries, not bend to pressure and ignore what is happening to the most important fish in our waters.  Too much damage has already been done and maintaining the status quo will result in disaster.

Ultimately, the effective management of Atlantic herring is fundamental to the health of New England’s ecosystem, providing an abundant bait source, and supporting jobs and communities that depend on them. Fresh, healthy seafood requires sustainable management of the entire ecosystem. Amendment 8 is necessary to right the ship – there is no time to waste.

Ben Martens is Executive Director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, a member of the Fishing Communities Coalition