Fishing has been woven into the fabric of coastal communities throughout history. For hundreds of years, people have relied upon the resources that were bountiful in the Gulf of Mexico, and over time, people built family businesses around commercial fishing and seafood production. Today, commercial fishing in the U.S. provides sustainable seafood to consumers across the world. We are rebuilding and protecting our fisheries not just for the fishermen and consumers of today, but for future generations as well. This is why it's important to us to cultivate a strong base of young fishermen to carry on the legacy of today's fishery leaders.
While commercial fishing is an economic driver in the Gulf of Mexico, there are obstacles and challenges. Commercial fishermen are aging (40% 0f commercial fishermen are over 55) , and there is a shortage of young fishermen to take over from the current generation. Because of the high-risk nature of commercial fishing and need for large upfront investment, finding the capital to start a fishing business can be challenging. Banks may be hesitant to grant loans to new commercial fishermen. Additionally, the regulatory landscape is complex, and the skill set required to be successful is diverse (gear and vessel maintenance, navigation, safety-at-sea, business planning, among others). Due to these challenges, the Shareholders’ Alliance is working to build a strong cohort of young, replacement fishermen who will take the reins and are dedicated to conservation, accountability, and sustainability.
The Shareholders’ Alliance, along with like-minded small boat commercial fishing groups in the Fishing Communities Coalition, support the Young Fishermen's Development Act, which became law in 2021 and creates a $2 million grant program for training initiatives tailored to young and next generation fishermen.
The Reef Fish Quota Bank is the only program of its kind in the Gulf of Mexico. It is a source of red snapper allocation for next generation fishermen who are committed to high standards of accountability and conservation.
We regularly bring young fishermen to Washington, D.C. and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meetings to provide their first-hand experiences to elected representatives and fishery managers. We also encourage fishermen to attend the Marine Resource Education Program (MREP), a multi-day workshop focused on educating fishermen in fishery-science and the regulatory process.
Access to capital to start or grow a fishing business is a challenge for next generation fishermen. The Shareholders’ Alliance is engaging with private financial institutions to increase the likelihood that they will grant loans to commercial fishermen. We also support National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Fishery Finance Program as a valuable resource for fishermen.
The Shareholders’ Alliance is part of a multi-state, multi-fishery leadership team that is working to develop a young fishermen training and education program for the Gulf of Mexico. This project is in the early phases of development. Stay tuned for more information.
Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders' Alliance
1902 Wharf Road Galveston, TX 77550 US
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Promoting Gulf of Mexico sustainable fisheries