Rep. Ing seeks legal avenues to block slave-like practices among fishing fleet

On March 23, 2016, a man unloads fish from the U.S. fishing vessel the Sea Dragon at Pier 38 in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

Allegations of slave-like conditions aboard Honolulu’s fishing fleet, first reported in 2013 by KHON2’s Always Investigating, are prompting a call for immediate intervention by state Rep. Kaniela Ing.

Nearly three years ago, Always Investigating detailed horrid working conditions, rock-bottom pay, and allegations of international crew captivity aboard some of the boats that dock at Honolulu Harbor, the same vessels that sell lucrative fish hauls to stores and restaurants.

Years later, the problem is again getting attention after the Associated Press followed up the story. Federal and state agencies have said there’s little they can do, but Ing is seeking an Attorney General opinion that he thinks could help put a stop to it.

“From the initial story run by KHON to the national attention it’s been getting now, the time is right, and it’s going to take a few creative approaches,” Ing said. “Any abuse of any human in our aloha state has to end, and the state should commit to do everything we can.”

Ing is asking the state Attorney General to issue an opinion as to whether state laws on unfair labor and business practices are being violated. If yes, Ing says a lawsuit for immediate injunction could follow. If no, Ing says lawmakers can follow up with a fix in the next session.

Ing, (D-Maui), is chair of the House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs.

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