Lawmakers Discuss Conditions of Foreign Labor at Honolulu Harbor
A demonstration was held at the State Capitol today demanding an end to “human trafficking and unacceptable living and work conditions” reportedly found on some US fishing vessels docked in Hawaiʻi.
Organizers say the protest was in response to an Associated Press story published last month reporting squalor-like living conditions, lack of sufficient food, and instances of human trafficking in a Sept. 8, 2016 story entitled, “Hawaiian seafood caught by foreign crews confined on boats.”
Following the rally, the House Committee on Ocean Marine and Hawaiian Affairs, chaired by Rep. Kaniela Ing of Maui, hosted an informational briefing that included participation from representatives with the commercial fishing industry, state departments and community groups.
The purpose of this informational briefing was to discuss the implementation of the Universal Crew Contract in the Hawaiʻi commercial fishing industry fleet, issuance of fishing licenses and the conditions of foreign labor related to fishing and ocean resources.
The meeting comes in light of recent reports by the Associated Press of alleged unacceptable living and working conditions for foreign labor workers on commercial fishing vessels docked at Honolulu Harbor.
Earlier this month, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources issued a statement saying the department was aware of and concerned about the allegations, but DLNR Division of Aquatics administrators said a petition seeking amendments appeared to focus on “labor issues that are not part of DLNR’s jurisdiction.”
DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement also weighed in saying the division “does not have the authority to investigate immigration and labor issues,” noting that its main focus is enforcement of state laws and rules relating to the State’s natural resources.
On Oct. 14, 2016, Representative Kaniela Ing responded to our request for comment saying, “This response is as expected. The State had denied culpability for years. Same goes for other relevant institutions who would rather point to a few bad actors than hold themselves to account. Let me be the first to admit that the fault, in part lies on us lawmakers. I’m gonna keep prodding to uncover a means to end this evil happening on our docks.”