San Diego

New San Diego Commercial Fishing Apprenticeship To Train Next Generation

"We're going to need a whole new generation coming in, in the next 20 to 40 years," said Halmay.

San Diego's commercial fishing industry is making a comeback, with renewed interest in emerging fisheries, and local ocean-to-table food.

Local fishermen say the average age of a local fisherman is over 50, so there's a new effort to make sure San Diego has enough fishermen well into the future.

"This is an industry that's in dire trouble unless we get young people to come into the fisheries," said commercial fisherman, Kelly Fukushima.

"We have three boys in our family, 12, 14 and 16 years old, Sai, Chase, and Kade," said Fukushima.

And they're all aspiring commercial fisherman.

"I've been practicing fishing with my dad. He's been teaching me all the ropes and everything about it," said Sai. "My first word I ever said was fish. But I used to say -ish."

With his three boys, which is also the name of his boat, Fukushima has a plan for the future. But the veteran fisherman knows more hands are needed on deck.

"What we need is really young guys who are enthusiastic about the industry, who have the knowledge and the skill and the dedication to make this work, so that we can have fresh local seafood that's responsibly harvested for years to come," explained Fukushima.

"It's not next year or the year after. It's what it's going to look like 20 years from now," said Peter Halmay, who dives for sea urchins off his boat Erin B.

"I'm 78 years old, so I'm going to be 98 years old at that time, and won't be fishing as much as I should," explained Halmay. "So we're going to need a whole new generation coming in, in the next 20 to 40 years."

To help fellow commercial fishermen survive, Halmay and Fukushima are among a group of San Diego fishermen working with California Sea Grant, which is based at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Together, they're developing the state's first-of-its-kind commercial fishing program.

"Everything from being out at sea, operating a boat, knowing the science, knowing the ocean, knowing how to run a business and market your catch," explained Theresa Talley, Ph.D., of California Sea Grant.

The program will take 6 to 12 months to complete. It involves 100 hours of classroom instruction and 1,000 hours of paid, on-the-job training with local fishermen.

Because California fishermen must comply with some of the strictest regulations in the world, local fish is responsibly sourced, and more diversified.

"You see, when we were fishing in the 70s and 80s there weren't many of these fish that we fish for right now," said Halmay.

"The hope is that with bringing more people in and raising awareness about the variety of seafood that's available, we can fish lightly among many more species, and that could open up more jobs," explained Talley.

The apprentice program will also keep track of fishing data, to help ensure the sustainability of commercial fishing.

"What San Diego fishermen do, we go out each day and we catch these beautiful local fish and we bring them back for the people of San Diego to enjoy. The heritage in San Diego goes back a long way and we want to see it continued," said Fukushima.

The California Sea Grant training program is set to start in January.

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