Hawaii bill would ban licenses for some foreign fishermen

A catch of fish is unloaded from a commercial fishing boat at Pier 38 in Honolulu, in this Feb. 2 file photo. (AP)
Updated 23 February 2017
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Hawaii bill would ban licenses for some foreign fishermen

HONOLULU: Hawaii lawmakers are considering a proposal with the potential to cripple the state’s commercial fishing industry after an Associated Press investigation found foreign fishermen confined to boats and living in subpar conditions.
A 2016 AP investigation found that some fishermen earned less than $1 an hour and worked without most basic labor protections while catching premium seafood. The boats often have crews of fishermen from Southeast Asia and Pacific Island nations, and the men are restricted to their vessels when docked in Honolulu because they lack proper documentation to enter the US.
A bill in the Hawaii Legislature aims to change rules for how fishing licenses are issued to foreign crew members that make up the majority of the state’s commercial fleet.
Now, boat owners or captains bring foreign crew members’ passports and customs documents to a state agency to get their licenses — without the fishermen present. A federal legal loophole allows foreign fishermen to work off the coast of Hawaii, but they are technically not allowed to enter the country.
The bill would require anyone seeking a commercial fishing license in Hawaii to appear in person. State Sen. Karl Rhoads says he wants to change the law so people who are not permitted to enter the US cannot get a license to fish on American-flagged boats sailing from Honolulu.
“They just feel like the underdogs to me, and I don’t like to see people taken advantage of,” he said.
Despite the federal loophole, state laws require anyone applying for a fishing license to be “lawfully admitted” to the country.
US Customs and Border Protection says these men are banned, raising questions about whether the state has been violating its own law for years by allowing the foreign workers to catch and sell seafood in Hawaii.
“As the state, we don’t have a lot of jurisdiction over it, and this is a way to legitimately insert ourselves into the process, because we do require a license,” Rhoads said.
The Hawaii Longline Association opposed the bill, saying the industry is already regulated and additional requirements are unnecessary.
“It could lead to the use of no foreign crew in the fishery, which would be very devastating,” said Jim Cook, a member of the association’s board of directors. “It would be similar to having no immigrant people in agriculture in Hawaii or any other part of the United States.”
Two Hawaii Senate committees discussed the proposal Wednesday. A religious group that works with foreign fishermen opposed the bill saying the fishermen rely on the money they earn in the US But Kathryn Xian who works with trafficking victims said some fishermen are treated better than others, and the industry cannot be relied upon to self-regulate.
The committee postponed making a decision until next week.
Typically, when commercial fishing boats arrive in Honolulu, they are met by federal customs agents who ban foreign workers from entering the country by stamping “refused” on their landing permits.
But a written opinion by Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin said the state Department of Land and Natural Resources provides the landing permits as proof the fishermen are “lawfully admitted.”
Rhoads says the form allows someone to land but does not allow lawful entry as required for a license.
“Right now, it just feels like lots of gray area,” Rhoads said. “I think when there are gray areas, it’s easier to take advantage of people.”
Cook, of the fishing industry group, suggested that the fishermen who are refused entry could be granted “parole” to go to the office to apply for their licenses.
Federal customs officials referred AP to federal immigration law that says parole can be given on a case-by-case basis for “urgent humanitarian reasons” or “significant public benefit.”
Foreign fishermen usually get parole only when they have a medical emergency or they are being escorted to the airport to leave the country.
But Cook said he believes there is also a parole category for ship business. Federal officials did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on that possibility.


Passenger numbers rise at Dubai International Airport

Updated 38 min 43 sec ago
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Passenger numbers rise at Dubai International Airport

  • Operator welcomes monthly jump after travel decline in past year
  • Dubai Airports launched its Strategic Plan 2020 in 2011 with the aim of increasing passenger capacity from 60 million a year to 90 million by 2018

LONDON: The number of passengers passing through Dubai International Airport rose by 2.1 percent in October compared with the same month last year, the operator Dubai Airports said on Monday.

The increase follows a drop in passenger traffic in September and a wider slowdown in the number of travelers passing through the emirate’s airport over the past year.

“Dubai International has been on record stating that passenger growth would be somewhat lower than in previous years, so this current performance is in line with my expectations,” said aviation analyst Saj Ahmad from Strategic Aero Research.

“That said, the airport has still grown over 2017 and will likely eclipse its 2018 target of handling over 90 million passengers and remain the world’s busiest international airport,” he said.

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths told a conference in Dubai last month that he expected just over 90 million passengers to use the airport this year, according to Reuters.

A total of 7 million passengers used the airport in October, compared with 6.9 million in the same month last year.

In September, passenger traffic fell by 0.2 percent compared with the previous year. The decline was blamed on the Eid Al-Adha holiday — with an associated spike in travel — falling in September last year.

Total passenger traffic in 2017 rose by just 5.5 percent year-on-year to reach 88.24 million people. This is a slower rate of growth than the 7.2 percent increase in 2015-16 and the 10.7 percent jump recorded between 2014-2015.

Dubai Airports launched its Strategic Plan 2020 in 2011 with the aim of increasing passenger capacity from 60 million a year to 90 million by 2018.

Under the strategy, the number of airport stands has been increased and terminal buildings expanded.

As demand grows, further work on the airport’s infrastructure will be needed, said Ahmad.

“Demand is not infinite — the airport is operating at nearly 98 percent capacity, so it stands to reason that only so much growth can be absorbed,” he said.

DXB handled 237,499 tons of cargo in October, a 2.5 percent increase on the previous month. Overall cargo volumes have fallen year-to-date by 0.9 percent to 2.1 million tons.