John Levy, the head of the South Shore Gill Net Fishermen's Association, said the changes to the at-sea observer program upset him. (CBC)

The head of a Nova Scotia fishermen's group is criticizing a Fisheries and Oceans Canada decision to download more management costs to fishermen.

In addition to previously announced changes — including requiring fishermen to pay for tags and log books — the federal government has decided to stop paying for observers on fishing vessels.

John Levy, the head of the South Shore Gill Net Fishermen's Association, said the changes upset him.

"We're the ones that now are being told, 'That's it, you're taking this over,'" he told CBC News.

Levy is a gill net and lobster fisherman based in Blandford, who also sits on the Lunenburg and Queens Management Groundfish Board.

"We're all going to have to pay for this extra cost when they're getting less and less fish to catch, more and more expenses," he said from the deck of his boat alongside the Blandford wharf.

The at-sea observer program is mandatory and vessels are selected randomly. Certified private sector observers are placed on board to monitor fishing activities, collect scientific data and monitor industry compliance with fishing regulations and licence conditions.

Starting April 1, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will stop paying one-third of the cost of those observers.

Right now, a sea observer costs the boat owner $300 per day. After April 1, the portion currently covered by the federal government — approximately $100 per observer — will have to be absorbed by boat owners.

As a gill net fisherman who goes out to sea for weeks at a time, Levy said this change alone could cost him hundreds of dollars more each time an observer is on board.

"I'm not sure what this government is trying to do. But if they keep pushing and pushing, jeez, they seem like they're trying to push us out of business," he said.

"I don't know what they're trying to do. But it's not right."

Javitech Ltd., a Bedford company, is the only certified provider of at-sea observers in the Maritimes. Fisheries and Oceans Canada paid the company $878,000 for its services in 2011.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada said the department is moving towards an oversight role in the fisheries.

"As the fishing industry takes greater responsibility for conservation and stewardship, they will also assume a greater share of fisheries management costs, including all costs associated with fisheries monitoring programs, of which the at-sea observer program is a significant component," Melanie Carkner told CBC News in an emailed statement.