Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Latest AP story on conditions in Hawaii’s fishing fleet keeps the pressure on state government to correct abuses
Hawaii lawmakers are considering a proposal with the potential to cripple the state's commercial fishing industry after an Associated Press investigation found foreign fishermen confined to boats and living in subpar conditions.—AP story
by Larry Geller
The latest Associated Press story exposing conditions in Hawaii’s long lines fishing fleet is spreading to news outlets nationally and internationally. This story focuses on the potential consequences of new legislation currently being heard in the state legislature that would change the way fishing licenses are issued to foreign fishermen.
If Hawaii’s commercial fishing industry is “crippled” by a new law, it would only be because Governor Ige’s administration did nothing to bring the state’s practice of licensing foreign fishrman into conformance with existing state laws.
The original AP story exposing near slave labor conditions in the Hawaii long lines fishing fleet was published on September 8, 2016. Since then the state has rebuffed efforts to correct the situation by enforcing existing state law. Specifically, Hawaii already has a law on the books prohibiting the licencing of foreign fishermen who cannot be landed in the state.
A 2016 AP investigation found that some fishermen earned less than $1 an hour and worked without most basic labor protections while catching premium seafood. The boats often have crews of fishermen from Southeast Asia and Pacific Island nations, and the men are restricted to their vessels when docked in Honolulu because they lack proper documentation to enter the U.S.
[AP, Hawaii bill would ban licenses for some foreign fishermen, 2/22/2017]
If the fishermen lack proper documentation to enter the state, then they cannot be issued commercial fishing licenses, but the Department of Land and Natural Resources is issuing licenses to them anyway. In addition, it’s not clear that the fishermen are able to understand the conditions for applying for licenses in the absence of proficiency in English.
How many AP stories will it take before Hawaii eliminates the shameful exploitation of cheap foreign labor under questionable working conditions?