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Fisherman who sued feds thrilled about funding for monitoring

HAMPTON — A commercial fisherman who sued the federal government over at-sea monitoring costs was thrilled Thursday when it was announced the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would fully fund the program under the omnibus government spending bill.

David Goethel, of Hampton, said he learned about the funding Wednesday.

“I’ve been sitting on this for 18 hours. I was like a cat that swallowed a canary. I didn’t want to spit out any feathers,” Goethel said Thursday afternoon.

NOAA used to pay at-sea monitoring fees but reduced contributions in recent years. Fishermen say their costs can be up to $700 per day.

Goethel’s wife, Ellen, said the news brought tears to her eyes.

“I can’t overstate enough how much this means to the fishermen of New England,” Ellen Goethel said.

The couple learned the news through an email from Erica Anhalt, a legislative assistant for U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH.

On Thursday morning, Shaheen issued a public statement.

“New Hampshire fishermen face enough daunting challenges — the last thing they need right now is to be further burdened with a costly regulatory fee,” said Shaheen. 

The bill provides an additional $10.3 million to fully fund the cost of at-sea observers and training in the New England groundfish fishery, including sea and shore side infrastructure costs, according to Anhalt’s email.

Shaheen said she will continue to fight for fishermen.

“We should be focused on making it easier, not harder, for our commercial fishing industry to compete in today’s market, which is why I fought to include relief for at-sea monitoring costs this year. I’ll continue to prioritize our fishermen and work to ensure the industry’s long-term sustainability,” Shaheen said in her statement.

The legislation also includes $2 million in new funding for New England groundfish research, including the impacts of changing climatic conditions and warming waters.

The Goethels credit Shaheen for the victory.

“You can’t overstate how much Senator Shaheen has done here,” David Goethel said.

The lawsuit David Goethel filed in 2015 was funded by Cause of Action Institute, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit oversight group advocating for economic freedom and individual opportunity. They petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court last year, which did not choose to hear the case.