In 2015, the Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC), a coalition of seven small-boat commercial fishing organizations dedicated to supporting fishermen and fishery-dependent communities, came together to address structural workforce challenges to the industry. The current generation of commercial fishermen were aging out, yet there was a distinct lack of young and beginning entrants into the industry. This “graying of the fleet” was a consequence of the challenges potential young fishermen are increasingly facing, including high cost of entry and strenuous work in a high-risk environment, limited entry-level opportunities, complicated regulatory frameworks, changing and warming ocean ecosystems, and more.
At that time, we worked closely with the FCC to create a national policy solution to the structural workforce challenges facing the industry. At the time, there were a few, isolated regional efforts to address the challenges young fishermen face, but there was not a single federal program dedicated to easing the way for young fishermen through training, education, and mentorship opportunities. Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had a grant program to help the next generation of farmers and ranchers in this manner—the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Program—that program was not available to seafood harvesters.
Over the next year, we worked closely with the FCC, Congress, and the National Sea Grant Program under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) to develop legislation creating a federal grant program to provide funds for the training and continuing education of future generations of community-focused commercial fishermen. That bill, the Young Fishermen’s Development Act, was introduced in 2017. It ultimately passed the House and Senate in 2020 and was signed into law by Present Trump on January 5, 2021.
Since the bill’s enactment, we have work closely with the FCC, Congress, the Biden Administration, local and regional fishing industry stakeholders on the program’s implementation, which was authorized at $2 million a year for the next five fiscal years.
Create and implement a national, holistic approach to workforce challenges facing the industry and work with Congress and regional fishing groups to provide sufficient funding for the Young Fishermen’s Development Program. These funds will help to train, educate, and empower future generations of commercial fishermen who provide local, healthy, sustainable seafood to American households.
TG&A combines our substantial knowledge and passion for supporting fishermen, fishing-depending communities, and healthy oceans with our expertise and experience in the congressional appropriations process to secure adequate funding to train and prepare the next generation for a successful and rewarding career on the water.
For the first time, the FY 2023 Senate Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations report provides full funding for the Young Fisherman’s Development Program. While FY 2023 budget negotiations are still ongoing, this would mark the first year, since the grant’s creation, that it would receive dedicated funds to support young fishers and coastal communities.
Facts and Figures:
• The seven regional fishing organizations of the FCC worked with congressional champions, NOAA, and two presidential administrations to craft, pass, and enact legislation creating a $2 million grant program to train and educate future generations of commercial fishermen.
• The Young Fishermen’s Development Act was signed into law on January 5, 2021.
• In 2021, NOAA Sea Grant used existing funds to create preliminary scoping grants for the Young Fishermen’s Development Program. Three FCC members were awarded scoping grants and provided critical feedback to NOAA as they fully fleshed out the new program.
• In the final $1.5 trillion omnibus package for FY 2022 enacted in March 2022, Congress included language encouraging the NOAA National Sea Grant Program to prioritize the Young Fishermen’s Development Program
• The FY 2023 House Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies (CJS) report included $1 million in funding for the program.
• The FY 2023 Senate CJS report included $2 million in funding for the program.
• In October 2022, NOAA Sea Grant announced a grant opportunity under the Young Fishermen’s Development Program to support approximately two to five awards.
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