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Fisherman apprentice program seeks young men and women

If you're a high school or even college graduate looking for full-time work and don't want to be trapped in a cubicle, there are jobs out there, with good pay -- and plenty of fresh air, too. (WJAR)

If you're a high school or even college graduate looking for full-time work and don't want to be trapped in a cubicle, there are jobs out there, with good pay -- and plenty of fresh air, too.

But you'll need your sea legs.

There are so few “next generation” commercial fishermen in the pipeline, causing concern in the Port of Galilee that one day the docks will be empty.

“Probably the average age of the fishermen is 49, 50 years old,” Fred Mattera, a marine safety instructor and former commercial fisherman, told NBC 10 News. “So, we need to infuse some youth into this fishery.”

Over the years, due to a number of factors like over-fishing and federally imposed fishing restrictions, Mattera said they experienced an economic lull.

“And so guys that were making 70, 80, 90 thousand dollars a year all of a sudden were making 40, 50 thousand dollars,” he said.

But now, he said, fishing has improved.

“Guys are making good money,” Mattera, who is also part of the Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island, said.

It received a national grant to start a four-week 20-day paid apprentice program for young men and women. It starts July 10.

Mattera explained what he will be teaching the apprentices.

“I teach them how to abandon ship, how to fight fires, man overboard,” he said. “I'm going to spend numerous days with them in pools, in survival suits, in life rafts, shooting flares, so that they can get that hands-on experience.”

There'll be navigation training, too, as well as how to do the nets, how to trawl, and more. It will culminate with three, 12-hour fishing trips to Block Island Sound.

“We're going to do training right on the 80-foot steel draggers,” Spencer Bode, who is the Rhode Island Fisheries Apprentice Recruiter, said. “It's pretty cool. The training is going to be by the people that are going to hire you in the end.”

At the end of the four-week training program, each apprentice will be given a check foR $1,000. Plus, they'll get to keep all the equipment that was provided to them, which will allow them to be part of the next generation of fishermen.

“To be a successful fisherman, you have to have discipline,” Bode said. “You got to be motivated. It’s all about teamwork.”

Mattera shared similar sentiments.

“Fishing's not just a job,” he said. “It's a way of life.”

If you want the open sea instead of a nine to five office job, this just might be for you. To apply, you can fill out an online application here or contact Bode at spencerbode@cfcri.com.

Call 401-871-7272 if you have questions about the program or would like an application mailed to you.

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