The title captures what the report has to state: “The Price of Paradise: Vulnerabilities to Forced Labor in the Hawaiian Longline Fishing Industry.”

Published in April by the Georgetown University Law Center’s Human Rights Institute Fact-Finding Project, the 45-page report examines conditions for some 700 foreign fishermen working on vessels in Hawaii.

“Reports have surfaced that the foreign fishermen employed in this feet face extremely harsh working conditions and abuse,” according to the executive summary. “In some cases, these circumstances may constitute forced labor under international and national law. This is, in part, facilitated by the complex and often contradictory nature of the laws governing the Hawaiian longline fishing industry, as well as foreign fishermen’s exclusion from many of the same legal protections afforded to documented workers in the U.S.”

Detail of a photo from the Georgetown Law Hawaii longline fishing industry report.

Despite an to effort to clarify contracts and ensure safe working conditions, as well as legislators attempting to strengthen protections for fishermen, “three years after allegations first surfaced, our research uncovered that foreign fishermen remain vulnerable to forced labor.”

The report makes several recommendations for legislators, government agencies and industry actors to address the vulnerabilities:

  1. resolve foreign fishermen’s lack of legal status;
  2. clarify agencies’ regulatory jurisdiction and responsibilities; and
  3. strengthen the industry’s human rights-oriented policies and processes.

The report credits several local groups and individuals for contributing to the report, including attorney Lance Collins, Bruce Anderson from the state Department of Health and David Sakoda from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, and leaders of the Hawaiian Longline Association.

Support local journalism

Studies have shown that when local journalism disappears, government financing costs go up, fewer people run for public office, elected officials become less responsive to their constituents, and voter turnout decreases. Our small nonprofit newsroom works hard every day to present local news in a deep and transparent way, without fear or favor. We also rely on donations from readers like you to keep us afloat. The more support we receive; the stronger, more sustainable our journalism becomes; the more accountable we are to you. Please consider supporting our Honolulu Civil Beat with a tax-deductible gift.

About the Author