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Hirono, Hawaii Congressional Delegation Introduce Legislation to Address Working Conditions in Hawaii’s Longline Fishing Fleet

Sustainable Fishing Workforce Protection Act Would Provide Nonimmigrant Work Visas, Promotes Transparency in Compensation & Workplace Safety, Clarifies Federal Enforcement & Oversight

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Senator Mazie K. Hirono and the Hawaii Congressional Delegation introduced the Sustainable Fishing Workforce Protection Act, legislation that would address concerns about the status of foreign workers in Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet.

“This bill provides necessary protections for foreign fishermen and ensures the continued viability of Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet, which is important to our culture,” said Senator Hirono. “Throughout this process, I have worked with a range of stakeholders and will continue to do so as we work to pass this legislation.”

“The Sustainable Fishing Workforce Protection Act addresses longstanding allegations in the Hawaii fishing industry regarding the treatment of foreign workers on longline commercial fishing vessels homeported in Hawaii,” said Representative Colleen Hanabusa.  “I am optimistic this legislative framework will allow Congress to better define the employer-employee relationship between boat owners and foreign fisherman such that each side understands their rights and obligations.  I look forward to working with the rest of the Hawaii delegation and my colleagues in the House as we move this bill forward into law.” 

“This legislation is about providing safety, protecting human rights, and restoring dignity to the foreign crewmen working in Hawaii’s fishing fleet,” said Senator Brian Schatz. “I will continue to work with our congressional delegation to pass this bill and improve the working conditions on all our vessels.”

“For years, disjointed laws have left foreign fishermen working off our shores without federal protections or status, and at risk for inhumane conditions and human rights abuses,” said Representative Tulsi Gabbard. “This legislation will increase employer accountability, strengthen federal oversight, and improve working conditions for these workers that contribute to our local economy.”   

Senator Hirono introduced the bill, S. 2071, in the Senate with Senator Schatz. Representative Hanabusa introduced the companion legislation, H.R. 4224, in the House with Representative Gabbard.

The Sustainable Fishing Workforce Protection Act would:

  • Provide foreign fishermen in the Hawaii fleet with visas that will allow them to transit to and from and work legally in the U.S.
  • Establish a baseline of responsibilities for employers by outlining the components of labor agreements that they and the foreign workers must agree to governing wages and other compensation; requiring that the terms of those agreements be enforceable in U.S. court or by voluntary arbitration; and requiring that signed copies of the agreements be kept on file at relevant federal and state agencies.
  • Clarify oversight responsibilities of federal agencies with respect to health and safety issues for the Hawaii fishing fleet.