ALFA Seeks Applicants for Deckhand Apprenticeship Program

Photo: Eric Jordan

February 8th 2018

Local Fishing Group Seeks Applicants for Deckhand Apprenticeship Program

The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA), a Sitka-based fishing group, is seeking applicants for its budding Crewmember Apprenticeship Program. Through a safe and well-guided entry level experience, the program aims to provide young people an opportunity to gain experience in, as well as an understanding of, commercial fishing and its importance to supporting coastal communities

In late 2017, ALFA was awarded a $70,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to expand this program in Sitka and support efforts to launch similar programs in other parts of the state. The grant, leveraged with support from the City of Sitka and ALFA members, was awarded as part of NFWF’s Fisheries Innovation Fund. According to NFWF, “the work funded by these grants will result in improved management that strengthens the welfare of fishermen and local communities, promoting healthy fish stocks and healthy fisheries.”

Over the past three years, Sitka-based fisherman Eric Jordan of the F/V I Gotta has introduced over 40 young people to commercial fishing as part of the program. On the water, Jordan teaches his deckhands the intricacies of commercial salmon trolling while demonstrating sustainable fishing practices and encouraging a strong conservation ethic. 

“The future of our fisheries is dependent on young fishermen learning to love and care for the fish we harvest and the habitat essential to their well being,” said Jordan. “Our generation’s legacy will be defined how we, as Alaskan fishermen, rebuilt and enhanced our fisheries, and how we mentored the next generation.”

According to “Turning the Tide”, a report recently publicized by SeaGrant, North Pacific Research Board, and the Alaska Marine Conservation Council about the “graying” Alaskan fleet, deckhand apprenticeships are recommended as one way to attract younger entrants into an industry where the average age is over 50. Over the next two years, ALFA plans to expand its program to include more vessels, skippers, and crewmembers. ALFA will take lessons learned and help other communities replicate its model.

"With support from NFWF, we plan to expand the program to include more boats, crew, and communities," says Linda Behnken, Executive Director of ALFA. "Giving young people an introduction to Alaska's commercial fisheries will help sustain our fishing communities and create the next generation of resource stewards."

For now, the organization is seeking deckhand applicants to head out fishing this season.  Crewmember applications close on March 1st, 2018. Applicants must be over 18 years of age. Application information can be found at

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