Federal authorities respond to fair labor concerns among longline fishing fleet

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Federal authorities detailed how they respond to allegations of foreign labor mistreatment among Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet, issues Always Investigating revealed back in 2013.

Authorities such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Homeland Security have been meeting with vessel owners quarterly at Pier 19.

The agencies let media attend their 10th such meeting Thursday. They discussed topics ranging from new safety regulations to ensuring crew access to anti-trafficking resources.

“Certainly the nature of the fishing industry makes it susceptible to labor trafficking and that is one of the reasons we have these meetings,” said Joanna Ip, Homeland Security Investigations.

“Some captains have been resistant with CBP. We are not going to put up with that,” said Ferdie Jose, U.S. Customs and Border Protection supervisory officer. “You need to talk to your captains. They need to comply with CBP or with any other law enforcement agency that boards the vessel.”

Some crew and labor advocates have complained to Always Investigating about nonpayment or unexpected pay deductions, prolonged confinement despite requests to leave, and steep costs if they were to leave the vessel.

Homeland Security says it investigates all such allegations, but none so far have met the legal threshold for human trafficking.

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