Slavery is when work is compulsory and against someone’s free will.
When a crewmember of a fishing boat keeps signing up for renewed 2-year contracts, is that a sign of slavery?
Xian has taken up a banner for a cause she hasn’t personally investigated nor researched. Customs and Border Patrol has been looking closely at this matter with Hawaii’s loingline fleet and has yet to come up with any evidence of forced labor or abuse. AP’s story failed to note how many boats were involved in human trafficking or slavery, and never identifies any that were charged with a crime.
It looks like there was just one boat that might have abused two crewmen, and that took place five or six years ago. And, while that boat got it’s fishing license from Hawaii, it was actually operating from the West Coast, and not from Hawaii. It wasn’t one of Hawaii’s longline fleet.
So how many boats out of the 140 in Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet might have been guilty of “slavery”?
As of today, none.
There are allegations of dangerous working conditions. The truth is that fishing can be dangerous. We lost three young men to the sea recently, and they were doing this willfully during their free time. They understood the risks. Many have been injured or lost, and while “recreationally” fishing. Non-commercial fishermen, trolling for large fish, have been sliced, bitten, stabbed and lacerated by the fish they caught. Almost every single one will have a story about a nasty injury. For commercial fishermen, it’s much worse. It’s probably the most dangerous job there is.
As for the long hours, that is an inherent part of the world of longline fishing. When there’s a million dollars of tackle out there, and an unknown number of highly-value fish, the retrieval process doesn’t stop until everything is back on board, and that can take 12 hours or more. Add to that the 6 hours it takes to get the line, hooks and bait out into the water.
The, the boats are out at sea for a couple of weeks or more at a time. It’s definitely not a day trip. And not for the weak of heart.