House and Senate Pass Maine Delegation Bill to Prepare Next Generation of Maine Fishermen
WASHINGTON — The House and Senate both passed a bipartisan bill this week to help prepare young Americans for careers in fishing. The Young Fishermen’s Development Act, legislation Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) and Representatives Chellie Pingree (ME-01) and Jared Golden (ME-02) helped introduce last year, would provide federal grant funding for training and education on seamanship, navigation, vessel and engine care, and other essential topics to give aspiring fishermen the tools they need to enter the fishing industry.
“There’s no doubt we’re going to need more young people ready to take the wheel to keep the fishing industry strong in our state for years to come,” said Collins, King, Pingree, and Golden. “This legislation will help prepare young Mainers for jobs in the fishing and lobster industries, which will encourage them to stay in Maine to find work and sustain fishing communities and businesses throughout our state. We’re proud to work together to pass this bill through Congress and we urge the president to sign it into law without delay.”
The Young Fishermen’s Development Act would authorize up to $200,000 in competitive grants through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program to support new and established local and regional training, education, outreach, and technical assistance initiatives for young fishermen. The grant program outlined in the bill is modeled on the Department of Agriculture’s successful Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program.
Maine’s fishermen have been leaders in advocating for the Young Fishermen’s Development Act through the Fishing Community Coalition and the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association. After realizing the benefit that the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program had for farmers, it became clear that there was a very real need for a similar program for fishermen.
“If you expose Maine kids to the opportunities that exist in the fishing industry and provide them with some of the knowledge they need to be successful, you’re going to get some fine fishermen. This work to get young folks interested in commercial fishing has never been more important and I applaud the Maine delegation for making this issue a priority. The resources made available in this bill will help organizations like ours give tomorrow’s fishermen their start on the water.” - Ben Martens, Executive Director, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Alliance
The successful Eastern Maine Skippers program, which has helped prepare high school students for fishing careers for the last nine years, is an example of a Maine-based program that would be eligible for a grant through the legislation.
"Through our Eastern Maine Skippers Program, we at the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries recognize that for young fishermen to succeed in their businesses, they need to know more than just how to catch fish, and this federal legislation will enable training for other important skills that will help the industry to be sustained and coastal fishing communities to thrive." - Paul Anderson, Executive Director, Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries
The programs, workshops and services made available under the Young Fishermen’s Development Act include: seamanship, navigation, electronics, and safety; vessel and engine care, maintenance, and repair; innovative conservation fishing gear engineering and technology; entrepreneurship and good business practices; direct marketing, supply chain, and traceability; financial and risk management, including vessel, permit, and quota purchasing.