Federal legislation to help mobilize the next generation of commercial fishermen cleared its final hurdle this week, creating a national grant program to identify and train young fishermen in Gloucester and beyond.
The bill, co-authored in the House by Rep. Seth Moulton and signed into law Tuesday by President Donald Trump, addresses the succession void that many traditional fisheries are experiencing as the pipeline of entry-level crew and prospective captains has dried up.
The new law provides $2 million in funding to distribute grants of up to $200,000 to support and enhance local and regional training, education and technology development for entry-level commercial fishermen.
"This important new law creates opportunities that will foster young and beginning fishermen with the education, training, and mentorship needed to overcome the steep financial costs of entering the fishing fleet, allowing them to compete within the industry while fishing in a sustainable manner," said Robert C. Vandermark, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network.
The legislation had significant bipartisan support in the House and the Senate from representatives of fishing communities throughout the United States, from Cape Ann to Alaska. The Senate passed its version first, with the House following suit in December before the two bills were reconciled.
“This money will give new opportunities to young people and also help teach fishermen how to build new gear and fish in new ways that protect our oceans,” Moulton stated earlier.
The investment by Congress, he said, "will pay off in new technology that works and has buy-in from the people using it to make a living.”
Moulton announced he was filing the bill in a 2017 ceremony at Fishermen’s Wharf on the Gloucester waterfront. The measure also attracted wide local support from public officials and fishing industry stakeholders.
The congressman reintroduced the bill last year along with Reps. Don Young of Alaska and Jared Golden of Maine. The measure also was supported by other members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation.
The grants, which would flow through the Sea Grant program administered by NOAA Fisheries, may be used to fund educational courses associated with commercial fishing. They include seamanship, navigation, electronics, permitting, vessel purchasing and vessel and engine maintenance.
Other subjects eligible for funding include engineering of new environmentally friendly fishing gear and technology, as well as general business courses to manage fishing operations.
Moulton could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT