Human rights advocates push for change to protect foreign fishermen

Human rights advocates push for change to protect foreign fishermen

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group of human rights activists submitted this petition to the Department of Land and Natural Resources last month asking the agency to change the way it issues fishing licenses to foreign workers. This comes weeks after a report that compared some commercial boats to floating prisons.

"We don't know what goes on, on the ship. The captain can give the fisherman a stack of papers and say sign here, sign here, sign here, sign here. Because they can't read what they are signing," activist Larry Geller said.

But the DLNR opposes changes saying the rules are fine as written adding the need for interpreters is "unnecessary."

Hawaii based long liners are allowed to hire their crews from overseas but because of a loophole in the law those fisherman are essentially trapped on board because they're not allowed in the states.

"The intention of the rules is to begin to break through this and insure that if we're giving a fishing license to somebody that they understand all the terms and conditions," said Geller.

Besides providing an interpreter to ensure a contract is understood another amendment would require all applicants to list whether they are eligible for landing privileges in Hawaii.

Anyone who isn't would also have to provide copies of documents such as immigration papers. Finally, the owner of the boat would need to turn in a list of all workers required to stay on board.

Fisherman, David Von Hamm thinks the proposal is fair.

"Indonesians tend not to have the English language down as good as the Micronesians or the Fililpinos," said Von Hamm.

The petition will go before the Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday.

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