Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program floats fishermen training program, seeks public, industry comment
Online survey seeks input
- Glenn Haight, Fishing Business Specialist, Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program Juneau, Alaska, 907-796-6046; firstname.lastname@example.org
Juneau, Alaska—Fishermen in Alaska represent the state’s largest group of small business owners. But there is some graying going on—the median age of Alaska’s commercial fishermen is now close to 50.
Add to that the flight of limited entry permits from coastal residents to people outside the region and even outside the state, and the general consolidation of the state’s pollock, crab and salmon fishing fleets that has occurred in recent years, and people like Glenn Haight begin to think there might be fewer fishing jobs for people in Alaska’s coastal communities in the future. Haight is a fisheries business specialist with the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program.
“Yet, the jobs that remain have become more valuable and profitable for fishermen,” said Haight.
But who will get those better paying jobs? Haight said it likely would be the people best prepared to do them. To help Alaska coastal communities prepare their residents for the fishing jobs of the future, the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program is floating the idea of a professional fisherman’s training program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“It might be that a formal occupational endorsement program can help fishermen succeed in a rapidly changing global economy,” said Haight. “But we’d like to know what fishermen, coastal residents and others involved in the industry have to say about it.”
To find out what fishermen and coastal residents think of a training program for fishermen, the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program has put together an online survey.
“Basically we’re asking whether a university training program is needed, and if so what should be in it, and would such a program actually improve the chances of a young person getting a position as a crew member?” Haight said.
Traditionally, fishing skills have been learned on the job, often from family members passing down their knowledge to the next generation. Currently, there is no formal training program in Alaska that supports the professional development of fishermen. A training program for fishermen might look similar to the occupational training for carpenters, electricians, aircraft mechanics, nurses, health aides and other job training programs now run by the University of Alaska.
“Such a program could be tailored for the individual,” Haight said. “For an individual with no experience, it might have an apprenticeship element, where students would work alongside veteran fishermen. For someone with experience, it might focus more attention on advanced mechanics or engine repair, for example.”