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Hawai‘i Residents File Commercial Fishing Rules Petition

September 22, 2016, 11:39 AM HST
* Updated September 23, 12:11 PM
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Big Island Now stock photo.

Big Island Now stock photo.

Residents of the Big Island, O’ahu and Maui have filed a petition asking the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to amend its rules regarding commercial marine license applicant/holder transparency.

The petition asks for disclosure for the following conditions:

  • if they are ineligible for landing privileges in Hawai‘i,
  • if applicant is an owner or captain, to list the names of all licensees under their hire/command subject to the “detained on board” deportation order
  • citizenship of a licensee who is ineligible for landing privileges
  • the complete name and contact information for any person who assists an applicant/licensee who does not read English and cannot, without assistance, certify that they understand the terms of the license.

These additions to the commercial marine license application rule will provide the public, consumers, fish buyers and state and federal regulatory agencies transparency and immediate informational access to ship that utilize the recently publicized “detained on board” deportation order scheme where fishermen who work for Hawai‘i longline fishing companies are prohibited from coming ashore when docked in Hawaii’s harbors and the boat owner/captain holds the travel documents of such workers.

“While our jurisdiction only extends to the protection of natural resources, we are certainly very concerned about any human rights violations that are reportedly occurring on the longline fishing fleet, and stand ready to assist in any way possible,” DLNR Chair Suzanne Case stated in a press release last week.

“What is lacking in recent efforts, to give these worker basic labor rights, is transparency,” said Kathryn Xian of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery in Honolulu. “These longstanding and pervasive exploitative labor practices can’t simply be solved by a contract, when workers don’t have any status or access to justice. Furthermore, local consumers deserve to know how their purchased product arrives to their dinner tables so that they can make an informed decision on whether to buy into such an industry. This proposed rule change would help accomplish this.”

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“Every applicant is required to certify that they read the terms of the application, yet we now know that many of these fishermen who are held prisoner on these boats have very limited English skills,” said Larry Geller of Honolulu. “The person that is assisting them in filling out these applications should also disclose their involvement and certify that they have faithfully translated the terms of the license.”

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“If the DLNR feels the eye color of the licensee is important enough to require to be disclosed on the license application, they can ask meaningful questions that will help both the public and labor regulators identify which licensees engage in the immoral ‘detained on board’ deportation order scheme,” said Karen Chun of Maui.

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