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.


‘Get prices down’ Trump tells OPEC

Updated 20 September 2018
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‘Get prices down’ Trump tells OPEC

  • Trump highlights US security role in region
  • Comments come ahead of oil producers meeting in Algeria

LONDON: US president Donald Trump urged OPEC to lower crude prices on Thursday while reminding Mideast oil exporters of US security support.
He made his remarks on Twitter ahead of a keenly awaited meeting of OPEC countries and its allies in Algiers this weekend as pressure mounts on them to prevent a spike in prices caused by the reimposition of oil sanctions on Iran.
“We protect the countries of the Middle East, they would not be safe for very long without us, and yet they continue to push for higher and higher oil prices!” he tweeted.
“We will remember. The OPEC monopoly must get prices down now!”
Despite the threat, the group and its allies are unlikely to agree to an official increase in output, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing OPEC sources.
In June they agreed to increase production by about one million barrels per day (bpd). That decision was was spurred by a recovery in oil prices, in part caused by OPEC and its partners agreeing to lower production since 2017.
Known as OPEC+, the group of oil producers which includes Russia are due to meet on Sunday in Algiers to look at how to allocate the additional one million bpd within its quote a framework.
OPEC sources told Reuters that there was no immediate plan for any official action as such a move would require OPEC to hold what it calls an extraordinary meeting, which is not on the table.
Oil prices slipped after Trumps remarks, with Brent crude shedding 40 cents to $79 a barrel in early afternoon trade in London while US light crude was unchanged at about $71.12.
Brent had been trading at around $80 on expectations that global supplies would come under pressure from the introduction of US sanctions on Iranian crude exports on Nov. 4.
Some countries has already started to halt imports from Tehran ahead of that deadline, leading analysts to speculate about how much spare capacity there is in the Middle East to compensate for the loss of Iranian exports as well as how much of that spare capacity can be easily brought online after years of under-investment in the industry.
Analysts expect oil to trend higher and through the $80 barrier as the deadline for US sanctions approaches.
“Brent is definitely fighting the $80 line, wanting to break above,” said SEB Markets chief commodities analyst Bjarne Schieldrop, Reuters reported. “But this is likely going to break very soon.”