Turtle Island Restoration Network told The Associated Press on Wednesday that they filed the complaint last week with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. The filing asks the panel to determine the responsibility of the U.S. for human rights violations against foreign workers in Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet.
An Associated Press investigation into the seafood industry revealed that hundreds of men are confined to Hawaii boats that operate due to a federal loophole that exempts the foreign fishermen from most basic labor protections.
Many come from impoverished Southeast Asian and Pacific nations to take the jobs, which can pay as little as 70 cents an hour.
The fleet catches $110 million worth of luxury seafood annually.
The petition, which the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery and Ocean Defenders Alliance joined, was filed on July 13 with the agency that can make non-binding recommendations to government officials and policymakers.
The Inter-American Human Rights Commission is an autonomous body of the Organization of American States, which works to protect human rights in the hemisphere. The U.S. is a member of that organization.
“Hawaii’s longline fishery operates in a void of regulation. Government at the state and federal level is failing to ensure even the most basic human rights for these workers,” said Cassie Burdyshaw, advocacy and policy director for the Turtle Island group.
Since initial reports, little has changed in the industry that provides ahi tuna and other fish to American and overseas consumers at a premium price.