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NOAA to reimburse fishermen 85 percent for at-sea monitoring costs

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will reimburse New England fishermen for 85 percent of the cost of at-sea monitors in 2016, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's office announced Wednesday.
NOAA is expected to launch a program July 1 through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission where fishermen will be reimbursed for costs they pay this year to the at-sea monitors, according to Shaheen's office. Fishermen have said the costs, which began this year, are too much for them to pay and could sink their already weakened industry.
Shaheen’s staff said NOAA is paying for the reimbursement program through extra funds left over from the 2015 fiscal year and does not intend to cover costs for at-sea monitors in 2017.
At-sea monitors – third-party workers hired to observe fishermen’s compliance with federal regulations – must join commercial fishermen on 10 percent of their trips and cost fishermen an estimated $700 per day, officials have said.
NOAA paid for at-sea monitoring until May 1 when it began mandating fishermen cover the cost. The agency has received pushback from the fishing industry and New England’s congressional delegates who say it is unfair for fishermen to fund their own policing.
NOAA officials said they were withholding comment until Thursday.
Shaheen, D-N.H., said Wednesday she is happy fishermen will get relief this year from the costs. She and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., have been vocal about their opposition to NOAA forcing fishermen to pay for the at-sea monitors.
"I’m very happy that NOAA will cover a significant portion of at-sea-monitoring costs for 2016 and provide much needed relief to New Hampshire’s small boat fishermen," Shaheen said. "I’ve long been calling on NOAA to cover this funding and I’m glad to see they have addressed this need for New England fishermen."
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte also released a statement Wednesday praising NOAA for agreeing to reimburse the fishermen this year.
"While I have fought for and continue to strongly believe that NOAA should fully fund its at-sea monitoring program, I am pleased the Administration will reimburse fishermen for a percentage of the costs incurred for the program," Ayotte said. "These unfair fees place an impossible burden on our small business fishermen and going forward, I will continue my efforts to support New Hampshire fishermen in their fight against the fees."