Hawaii media outlets banded together this week to protest being shut out of a meeting between commercial fishing vessel owners and government officials to discuss concerns about the treatment of foreign crew members who work on U.S. vessels.

The closed-door meeting had been set for Thursday in Honolulu. But news organizations across the state, led by the Associated Press,  called on U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which had organized the meeting, to open access to the public. The AP has reported extensively about slave-like conditions for some foreign workers in Hawaii as well as abroad.

Caleb Jones, the AP’s Hawaii administrative correspondent, said in an email Wednesday afternoon that he had received word that the meeting “will be rescheduled for a later date, at which time it will be open to press as well as other stakeholders.”

Two longline fishing vessels are ported in Honolulu.
Two longline fishing vessels are ported in Honolulu. Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Several news editors and directors explained in their joint email Wednesday to state and federal officials that they understood the discussion is “intended as a fact-finding meeting held by public officials for the purposes of creating official public policy.”

They cited the Hawaii Sunshine Law, which states in part: “Opening up the governmental processes to public scrutiny and participation is the only viable and reasonable method of protecting the public’s interest.”

The law’s declaration of policy intent says, “it is the policy of this State that the formation and conduct of public policy — the discussions, deliberations, decisions, and action of government agencies — shall be conducted as openly as possible.”

Read the Associated Press reports on problems in the Hawaii fishing fleet here.

Read Civil Beat’s coverage of how foreign crews are able to work aboard U.S. fleets here.

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