Every year, the federal government spends millions monitoring New England commercial fishermen to ensure they ply their timeless maritime trade in accordance with the law.

Now, a judge is set to rule on who should foot the bill for the on-board monitors: the government or the fishing boat owners. The East Coast fishermen say sticking them with the bill would be the "death knell" for their industry and is illegal on the part of the federal government.

Fishermen of important New England food species such as cod and haddock will have to start paying the cost of at-sea monitors soon under new rules. Monitors -- third-party workers hired to observe fishermen’s compliance with federal regulations -- collect data to help determine future fishing quotas and can cost about $18,000 a year, or $710 per voyage.

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