Young Fishermen's Initiative 

Gaining access to the fisheries off Alaska is increasingly difficult for young Alaska rural residents.

The Juneau-based Ord family are featured in an upcoming documentary launched by ALFA about the importance of small-boat, community-based fishermen.    The film was recently sponsored by Patagonia.    Photo by Annika Ord.

The Juneau-based Ord family are featured in an upcoming documentary launched by ALFA about the importance of small-boat, community-based fishermen. The film was recently sponsored by Patagonia. Photo by Annika Ord.

Thirty years ago, a young person who wanted to fish commercially needed a boat, some fishing gear, and a sense of adventure to get started in the business.  Today, young fishermen face staggering entry level costs, high operating costs, and a level of risk that is equivalent to buying a starter hotel, instead of a starter house as a first step in home-ownership.  Studies show that the average age of Alaska’s commercial fishermen is now 50, up by nearly 10 years since 1980.  Fishery access permits and quota are being lost from rural Alaska communities.

ALFA is committed to helping the next generation of fishermen and ensuring residents of Alaska’s coastal communities have access to our fisheries. Through a number of programs, we are helping the next generation of commercial fishermen launch and support viable commercial fishing businesses. 


National Advocacy: Young Fishermen's Development Act

Currently, there is not a single federal program in place dedicated to training, educating, and assisting the next generation of commercial fishermen. ALFA has joined forces with the Fishing Communities Coalition, a nationwide fisheries advocacy group to advocate for a national program to support young fishermen. Modeled after similar agricultural programs, the Young Fisherman’s Development Act would help connect and expand on existing regional efforts to support beginning commercial fishermen.

The program will provide funding and support for state, tribal, local, or regionally based networks or partnerships to:

Young fishermen advocate for fisheries access in Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of AMCC.

Young fishermen advocate for fisheries access in Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of AMCC.

  • Create training and educational opportunities in sustainable and accountable fishing practices and marine stewardship, business practices, and technical initiatives that address the needs of beginning fishermen.

  • Create mentorship/apprenticeship opportunities to connect retiring fishermen and vessel owners with new and beginning fishermen.

  • Foster a conservation ethic that prioritizes sustainable fishing practices and marine stewardship.

  • Offer financial support and guidance for new fishery entrants.

A national program that provides increased opportunities for the next generation of commercial fishermen could be a groundbreaking step in protecting the stability of coastal fishing communities and America’s seafood supply chain. The bill will soon be introduced and companion bills are to be introduced in the Senate.

ALFA also provides young people opportunities to learn about and participate in the decision-making process. Each year, ALFA brings young people to local, state, and national fora so that they can testify about issues that are relevant to the commercial fishing fleet and coastal communities. ALFA also encourages members to join the Young Fishermen’s Network, which has local chapters throughout Alaska.

Fishery Conservation Network Mentorship & Leadership Development

ALFA’s Fishery Conservation Network (FCN) engages fishermen in collaborative research to address conservation challenges and improve the viability of small boat fishing. Fishermen and scientists share data and information to accomplish a variety of projects; for instance, through our bathymetric mapping project, FCN members map the seafloor, share maps, and work together to more efficiently catch target species while controlling bycatch rates and avoiding sensitive habitat.

Through the FCN, established fishermen have the opportunity to mentor and work with young fishermen and pass on knowledge, tools, sustainable fishing practices, and resource stewardship ethics.


Deckhand Apprenticeship Program

Formalized as part of ALFA’s Young Fishermen Initiative in 2015, the Deckhand Apprenticeship program aims to provide those with an interest in commercial fishing an opportunity to gain experience.

It aims to give young people the opportunity to gain an understanding of commercial fishing, the lifestyle it provides, and its importance to supporting coastal communities in a safe and well-guided entry level experience.

ALFA has developed materials, a curriculum, and protocol for experienced skippers who are interested in hiring through the program. Contact Tara at for more information on joining the program.

Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust

ALFA has explored alternative funding mechanisms for limited entry and Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) purchase since IFQs were implemented in 1995. 

ALFA helped to found the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust (ASFT) in 2009.

To date, the Local Fish Fund (LFF) has facilitated transfer of over half a million dollars of quota shares and permits to Alaskan residents, with the most recent transfer completed in the first week of June 2017. We are currently finalizing terms with a regional fiscal agent that will guide program expansion as we take LFF to scale. We have $1.2 million in capital pledged by fishermen and $3 million in program related investment capital pending through NatureVest. ASFT has been awarded $180,000 in committed grant funds for the project.  

LFF’s progress in scaling up to meet community need has been facilitated through strong regional partnerships and local support. LFF’s first transaction included a partnership with Sealaska’s community development arm Haa Aani; the others involved local fishermen and local investment. LFF has also forged strong partnerships with The Nature Conservancy, NatureVest and, most recently, the Juneau Economic Development Commission. LFF's innovative approach lowers entry level costs and shields the young fishermen’s financial risk while still providing a clear path to ownership of fishery access. 

ASFT is currently working closely with our partners to fully capitalize LFF and take this innovative program to scale. 

Learn more about ASFT by visiting the Trust's website and FAQs.


Fish Safe: Sustaining Fishermen in Sustainable Fisheries

Young fishermen in British Columbia take pride in fishing sustainably and safely, while also delivering some of the highest quality wild-caught seafood.

By profiling young fishermen that are both invested in their respective fishing operations as well as emergency preparedness, the video provides an aspirational element for fishermen, both current and future, that fishing can be performed both sustainably and safely on our coast.
— Ryan Ford, Fish Safe Program Manager