Hawaii officials are recommending rejection of a petition to require additional information of applicants for commercial marine licenses.
Five people submitted the petition after the Associated Press reported U.S. longline vessels were employing predominantly foreign crew members, paying them a pittance and subjecting them to poor working conditions.
Of particular concern was the fact that foreign crew members are unable to leave the boats when they dock in Honolulu due in large part to federal labor laws and national security policies.
The petition will be considered during the Friday meeting of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.
Larry Geller, Kathryn Xian, Michael Gagne, Karen Chun and Cory Harden submitted their petition to the board Sept. 21.
“We need to investigate how these appalling practices were allowed by the industry and by government officials for so long, and enact measures to ensure it never happens again,” Harden said in a statement Wednesday.
The petitioners wanted the state Land Board to require commercial marine license applicants, including the longline fishermen, to disclose whether they are eligible for landing privileges in Hawaii and certify that they understood all the terms provided on the form.
They also asked the board to change the rules to require applicants — or licensees — who have been declared ineligible to land in Hawaii by the U.S. government to furnish copies of documents establishing that.
The petitioners essentially wanted the state to require the boat owners to disclose all the foreign workers they hire so the public could easily find out who is catching the fish that’s being sold.
Bruce Anderson, state Division of Aquatic Resources administrator, recommended the board deny the petition because it fails to state “sufficient reasons to justify its request” and appears to focus on labor issues outside the jurisdiction of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The board, a seven-member appointed body headed by DLNR Director Suzanne Case, could go against the recommendation, but that’s unlikely given Case’s support for it.
The petitioners expressed their disappointment with the recommendation in a news release Wednesday.
“It is absurd that DLNR will grant a fishing license in the expectation that the applicant will observe its terms and conditions when the applicant may never have seen or read the original application,” Geller said.
Read Anderson’s letter to the board and the full petition below:
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