In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, the
Pacific Paradise, a commercial fishing vessel carrying
foreign workers that ran aground and later burned and leaked
fuel just off the beaches of Waikiki, Hawai‘i, is towed out to
sea on December 7, 2017. It was sunk by a team of salvage
workers. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP)
From The Asian Reporter, V27, #24 (December 18, 2017),
pages 7 & 15.
Salvage team sinks fishing boat off Hawai‘i
By Caleb Jones
The Associated Press
HONOLULU — A commercial fishing vessel carrying foreign
workers that ran aground and later burned and leaked fuel just
off the beaches of Waikiki has been towed out to sea and sunk by
a team of salvage workers.
After being patched up and filled with foam to regain
buoyancy, the 79-foot Pacific Paradise was hooked to a
tug boat and hauled into deeper water as a crowd of people on
the beach cheered.
An attempt to tow the boat to sea earlier failed after it was
removed from the reef, but then became stuck again in a shallow,
sandy area about 600 feet away, forcing salvagers to wait until
The plan was to move it about 13 miles offshore to an
EPA-approved disposal site, according to Coast Guard Chief Petty
Officer Sara Muir. Officials say there could still be up to
1,500 gallons of fuel remaining on the boat.
The crash raised new questions about the safety and working
conditions of foreign laborers in the Hawai‘i fleet. No one
aboard called for help when it crashed, and rescue teams
responded to eyewitness reports. They rescued 19 foreign workers
and an American captain, who were then taken by U.S. Customs and
Border Protection agents to a pier to be interviewed and placed
on other boats.
"There’s a little bit of concern as to why there [were] so
many crew members onboard," said Honolulu resident Jeff Olin,
who was at the beach to watch the removal. "That’s definitely
another part of the equation that needs some answers."
The vessel usually has a crew of six, and while it was
unclear exactly how many bunks were on the Pacific Paradise,
similar boats typically have no more than 10 beds for crew to
sleep. It would have taken at least 12 days for the boat to make
it from American Samoa, where it picked up the Southeast Asian
crew members, to Hawai‘i.
The Pacific Paradise — based in Honolulu and used to
catch tuna in the Pacific — smashed into the shallow reef just
before midnight on October 10 in about six feet of water just a
few hundred yards offshore. Days later it caught fire as a
salvage team prepared it to be towed, causing extensive damage
that slowed its removal and sent fishing hooks, fuel, and oil
into the ocean.
A 2016 Associated Press investigation revealed the fishing
fleet exploits a loophole in federal law to employ men from
impoverished Southeast Asian and Pacific nations for a fraction
of the pay an American worker would get, with some making as
little as 70 cents per hour.
The men do not have authorization to enter the United States,
so they are confined to boats while docked in Honolulu and not
eligible for most basic labor protections. The AP report
revealed instances of abuse and claims of human trafficking
among the fleet.
Under the law, U.S. citizens must make up 75 percent of the
crew on most American commercial fishing boats. But in Hawai‘i,
the loophole carved out to support one of the state’s biggest
industries exempts commercial fishing boat owners from the rules
enforced almost everywhere else.
The recently introduced Sustainable Fishing Workforce
Protection Act would close the loophole that has allowed the
Hawai‘i fleet to employ the workers.
A banner reading "end slave-like labor in Hawai‘i longline
fishery" had been placed on the beach near the wreck by an
activist from the Turtle Island Restoration Network, which has
filed a complaint with the Inter-American Human Rights
Dylan Bedortha, the group’s advocacy associate who set up the
sign, formerly worked as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration observer in Hawai‘i’s longline fishing fleet. He
said the conditions he saw on the boats as a federal employee
made him change his career path.
"It took me a couple of years to really let all that sink in
and see what was actually going on on some of the worst boats
that I was on," Bedortha said. "I decided to take a different
direction and step into the conservation side of things."
The commission is an autonomous body of the Organization of
American States and works to protect human rights. The U.S. is a
The complaint asks the commission to determine the
responsibility of the U.S. government for human-rights abuses
against foreign workers in Hawai‘i.
Most of the foreign workers aboard the Pacific Paradise were
from Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Kiribati, and they
were not part of the regular crew.
Officials said the boat was not on a fishing trip before it
The boat is owned by Honolulu-based TWOL LLC. The company’s
lawyer, Bryan Ho, a longtime fishing industry attorney, has
declined repeated requests for interviews.
The 20 men were at sea for at least 12 days before the vessel
crashed, the minimum time it would take to get from American
Samoa to Hawai‘i, according to fishing industry experts.
Once rescued, they met U.S. customs officials and were
escorted to a pier in Honolulu to begin work on other boats.
Another fishing vessel with foreign crew members, the 57-foot
Jane, took on water and capsized about 110 miles off
Hawai‘i’s Big Island on November 27.
The crew sent a mayday call and got into a life raft before
being rescued by another fishing vessel.