The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA), a Sitka-based fishing group, is seeking applicants for its 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 (NFWF) to expand this program in Sitka and to 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.”
Last year, ALFA’s apprentice program received over 100 local, national, and international applicants, and ALFA placed 13 apprentices on commercial fishing boats over the 2018 fishing season. In 2019, ALFA plans to increase the number of participating apprentices, skippers, and fishing vessels and to enhance local employment opportunity. As Executive Director of ALFA, Linda Behnken explains, “With support from NFWF, we plan to expand the program to include more boats, crew, and communities. Our goal is to provide young people with a safe introduction to Alaska’s fisheries and to share the curriculum we have developed through our program with fishing groups in other parts of the State and country”.
Lea LeGardeur, a crewmember apprentice from last year, says of her experience in the program, “Beyond giving me an entry point into an industry that I otherwise would have had a harder getting into … the skippers in the program all wanted to teach, and sign up to take greenhorns so they could pass on what they know.”
ALFA is seeking applicants for the 2019 fishing season. Crewmember application period is currently open and will close Feb. 28. Applicants must be over 18 years of age. Application information can be found at http://www.alfafish.org/apprenticeship/.