Pasifika men among those living in slave-like conditions on fishing boats

fishing boats

About 700 workers from impoverished parts of Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands are working in Hawaiian fishing boats without proper works permits or basic rights and protection.

A federal loophole allows American boats to employ workers in the dangerous industry for years at a time – provided they never step foot on shore.

An investigation has uncovered many of the workers live in horrendous conditions, are forced to use buckets instead of toilets and suffering running sores from bed bugs, and are paid as little as 70 cents an hour.

“People say these fishermen can’t leave their boats, they’re like captives,” said U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni in Hawaii.

“But they don’t have visas, so they can’t leave their boat, really.”

Associated Press obtained confidential contracts and interviewed boat owners, brokers and more than 50 fishermen in Hawaii, Indonesia and San Francisco as part of an ongoing global look at labour abuses in the fishing industry.

Last year, the AP reported about fishermen locked in a cage and buried under fake names on the remote Indonesian island village of Benjina.

Their catch was traced to the United States, leading to more than 2,000 slaves being freed.

But thousands more remain trapped worldwide in an industry where work takes place far from shore and often without oversight.

On some boats the fishermen are paid as little as $350 a month, but many make $500 to $600.

A lucky few get a percentage of the catch, making it possible to triple their wages.

The men are willing to give up their freedom to take these jobs because the pay is better than they can make back home in developing countries where many people live on less than $1 a day.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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