Moulton Calls For 'Better Data' As Fishermen Must Now Pay For At-Sea Monitor Costs

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Some New England fishermen could now be looking at footing the bill for the cost of fishing monitors. The federally mandated monitors periodically collect data aboard vessels and observe the catches of groundfish, like cod and flounder.

Up until now, these monitors have been funded by the National Marine Fisheries Services. But that funding has run out, and the costs will now shift to the fishermen. Some say the costs could be upwards of $700 per trip.

For more on this, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton joined Morning Edition. He's been calling for reforms to the at-sea monitoring program.

Interview Highlights

On reforming the at-sea monitoring program

Look, I’m not opposed to the monitoring program. I mean, there’s a role for regulations just like there’s a role for regulations in just about every business. I mean, that’s the way our economy works. But the regulations have to be responsible, they can’t be over burdensome; they can’t literally just put the business out of business. I mean that doesn’t work for anybody. … So, we’ve proposed some reforms including changing from using data that’s just based on the previous year to using three-year averages, because fishing changes just season to season and year to year based on variances in ocean temperature and where the stocks tend to congregate and things like that. So, at the end of the day, what we’re striving for is accurate data to better manage the fishery.

You know, the fishermen go out every day, and they just fish the limits that NOAA sets. NOAA is the federal regulator, and the bottom line is that NOAA has failed at regulating the fishery, and that’s why we seem to bounce from crisis to crisis. So, it’s really not fair to blame the fishermen for these problems. The fishermen are actually advocating for getting better data so that NOAA can do its job better.

On who should bear the cost of at-sea monitoring

Well, the reforms we’ve suggested will help but at the end of the day the federal government should be bearing these costs, because it’s just not sustainable to put them on the backs of fishermen.

The costs for commercial vessels to have an observer on their boat is roughly $600 to $800 per trip and the government estimates that this would cost the region’s fishermen about $2.6 million a year. Fishing isn’t a super profitable business, that’s just not a cost that these fishermen and their families can bear.

This article was originally published on March 01, 2016.

This segment aired on March 1, 2016.

Deborah Becker Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.


Shannon Dooling Investigative Reporter
Shannon Dooling was an investigative reporter at WBUR, focused on stories about immigration and criminal justice.



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