EXCLUSIVE: Commercial fishermen consider strike

Published: Jun. 13, 2014 at 1:59 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Faced with soaring business expenses and soft wholesale fish prices, some struggling commercial fisherman are considering going on strike.

About thirty captains and owners of longline fishing vessels met Wednesday to discuss a potential stoppage.

"They're really thinking about going on strike to send a message," said "Jenny," who works for one of Hawaii's 2,600 fishing vessels.

"Everybody is going broke."

On Thursday, Honolulu Harbor's Pier 17 was unusually crowded with fishing vessels. Many of them are usually are out to sea at this time.

It's unclear how many of these boats will agree to go on strike since owners could wind up losing even more money by staying put.

For commercial fishermen, a strike is uncharted waters. There's no union and there's no guarantee that fellow commercial fisherman will honor a picket line.

A strike could lead to shortages and higher prices at the grocery stores but it also could result in a flood of cheaper imported fish from Asia and other areas.

Fisherman complain that the prices they get for the fish they sell at auction have remained virtually the same for years.

At the same time, fuel and other business expenses have soared.

"They've been getting bust up for so long ... That's why they're a little bit frustrated," said John Hernandez, owner of fish exporter John's Fresh Fish.

Hernandez believes a strike will hurt the local commercial fishing industry and consumers and will benefit commercial fishing companies from outside of Hawaii who will flood the market with cheap imports.

But Hernandez thinks wholesale prices are already on the way up, and that could head off any need for a strike.

"Fishing and the fishing business is like the ocean. There's always waves," he said.

"There are highs and lows and mediums."

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