CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A judge has denied a request from East Coast fishermen to stop the federal government’s plan to hand them the cost of at-sea monitoring.
Fishermen of New England food species such as cod and haddock will have to start paying the cost of at-sea monitors March 1 under new rules. Monitors collect data to help determine future fishing quotas and can cost about $800 per day.
Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have said money for monitors in New England groundfisheries will be gone soon. The monitors are trained workers who collect data to help determine future quotas on certain species of commercial fish.
Fishermen have spoken out for months against shifting the cost, saying it will sink many who are already dealing with the dwindling New England cod population and choking cuts to quotas. A group representing New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia sued the federal government in December.
The challenge was the subject of a hearing at U.S. District Court in Concord, New Hampshire, last week. Judge Joseph Laplante denied the request Wednesday, saying their action is barred under the law itself.
Hampton, New Hampshire-based David Goethel, one of the fishermen in the lawsuit, has said many fishermen won’t be able to afford the added cost of monitors. A message to his lawyer wasn’t immediately returned Thursday.
Laplante said regional councils were established to prepare and amend fishery management plans. An amendment that had its genesis in federal law was developed by the New England and Mid-Atlantic councils in 1985 to address groundfish, requiring that the industry pay the costs of the monitors. However, in spite of that language, the government has paid for them throughout the program’s existence. Laplante said the federal law prohibits the request from the fishermen.
“However sympathetic the court might be to the difficulties faced by commercial fishermen, this court cannot act where Congress has prohibited it from doing so,” Laplante wrote.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, said NOAA should fully fund the at-sea monitoring program.
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