Salvage team sinks fishing boat off Hawaii reef

In this image taken from video provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, the fishing vessel Pacific Paradise sinks 13 miles south of the Hawaiian island of Oahu following a near two-month effort to remove the vessel from a reef off Honolulu's Waikiki, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. The commercial fishing vessel was carrying foreign workers to Hawaii when it ran aground and later burned and leaked fuel. After being patched up and filled with foam to regain buoyancy, the 79-foot (24-meter) Pacific Paradise was hooked to a tug boat and hauled into deeper water as a crowd of people on the beach cheered. The boat was sunk at an EPA-approved site. (Lt. Mike Laurence/U.S. Coast Guard via AP)
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, Hawaii is towed out to sea Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. It will be sunk by a team of salvage workers. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP)
The fishing vessel Pacific Paradise is towed out to sea after being removed from a reef just off Waikiki where it ran aground nearly two months ago, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 in Honolulu. The commercial fishing vessel was carrying foreign workers to Hawaii when it crashed into the reef and later caught fire and leaked fuel into the ocean. It will be sunk by a team of salvage workers at an EPA-approved site about 13 miles south of Oahu. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)
People watch as the fishing vessel Pacific Paradise is towed out to sea after being removed from a reef just off Waikiki where it ran aground nearly two months ago, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 in Honolulu. The commercial fishing vessel was carrying foreign workers to Hawaii when it crashed into the reef and later caught fire and leaked fuel into the ocean. It will be sunk by a team of salvage workers at an EPA-approved site about 13 miles south of Oahu. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)
The fishing vessel Pacific Paradise is towed out to sea after being removed from a reef just off Waikiki where it ran aground nearly two months ago, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 in Honolulu. The commercial fishing vessel was carrying foreign workers to Hawaii when it crashed into the reef and later caught fire and leaked fuel into the ocean. It will be sunk by a team of salvage workers at a EPA-approved site about 13 miles offshore. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)
In this Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017 photo, Dylan Bedortha of the marine conservation group Turtle Island Restoration Network prepares a protest banner on the beach near the wrecked fishing vessel Pacific Paradise in Honolulu. After being filled with foam and water to regain buoyancy, the fishing vessel, that raises new questions about the safety and working conditions of foreign laborers, was connected to a tugboat and hauled off the reef Wednesday, Dec. 6. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)
In this Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017 photo, Dylan Bedortha of the marine conservation group Turtle Island Restoration Network stands next to a protest banner on the beach near the wrecked fishing vessel Pacific Paradise in Honolulu. The commercial fishing vessel carrying foreign workers that ran aground and later burned and leaked fuel just off the beaches of Waikiki was towed out to sea Wednesday, Dec. 6, and will be sunk by a team of salvage workers. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)
In this Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 photo, a woman watches as a salvage crew works to refloat the 79-foot Pacific Paradise so it can be removed from a reef off the beaches of Waikiki, in Honolulu. After being filled with foam and water to regain buoyancy, the fishing vessel was connected to a tugboat and hauled off the reef Wednesday, Dec. 6. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)
FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2017, file photo, smoke rises from a grounded fishing boat called "Pacific Paradise" that caught fire near Kaimana Beach in Honolulu. The boat that ran aground off Honolulu while transporting foreign fishermen to work in Hawaii's commercial fishing industry has raised new questions about the safety and working conditions for foreign laborers in this unique U.S. fleet. (Cindy Ellen Russell/The Star-Advertiser via AP, File)
In this Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 photo, a salvage crew works to refloat the 79-foot Pacific Paradise so it can be removed from a reef off the beaches of Waikiki, in Honolulu. After being filled with foam and water to regain buoyancy, the fishing vessel was connected to a tugboat and hauled off the reef Wednesday, Dec. 6. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows the 79-foot fishing boat Pacific Paradise, aground off the beach at Waikiki in Honolulu on Oahu. After being filled with foam and water to regain buoyancy, the fishing vessel was connected to a tugboat and hauled off the reef Wednesday, Dec. 6. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP)
In this image taken from video provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, the fishing vessel Pacific Paradise sinks 13 miles south of the Hawaiian island of Oahu following a near two-month effort to remove the vessel from a reef off Honolulu's Waikiki, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. The commercial fishing vessel was carrying foreign workers to Hawaii when it ran aground and later burned and leaked fuel just off the beaches of Waikiki. After being patched up and filled with foam to regain buoyancy, the 79-foot (24-meter) Pacific Paradise was hooked to a tug boat and hauled into deeper water as a crowd of people on the beach cheered. The boat was sunk at an EPA-approved site. (Lt. Mike Laurence/U.S. Coast Guard via AP)

HONOLULU — A commercial fishing vessel carrying foreign workers that ran aground and later burned and leaked fuel just off the beaches of Waikiki was towed out to sea Thursday and sunk by a team of salvage workers.

After being patched up and filled with foam to regain buoyancy, the 79-foot (24-meter) 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 Wednesday failed after it was removed from the reef but then became stuck again in a shallow, sandy area about 600 feet (183 meters) away, forcing salvagers to wait until high tide Thursday morning.

"The current plan is to get it out about 13 miles (21 kilometers) offshore, that's south of Oahu, to an EPA-approved disposal site," Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir said. "It should sink to about 1,800 feet (550 meters)."

Officials say there could still be up to 1,500 gallons (5,678 liters) of fuel remaining on the boat when it sinks.

The crash raised new questions about the safety and working conditions of foreign laborers in the Hawaii 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 was so many crew members onboard," said Honolulu resident Jeff Olin, who was at the beach Thursday to watch the removal. "That's definitely another part of the equation that needs some answers to."

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 Hawaii.

The Pacific Paradise — based in Honolulu and used to catch tuna in the Pacific — smashed into the shallow reef just before midnight on Oct. 10 in about 6 feet (1.83 meters) 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 an 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 Hawaii, 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 Hawaii fleet to employ the workers.

A banner reading "end slave-like labor in Hawaii longline fishery" had been placed on the beach near the wreck by an activist from Turtle Island Restoration Network, which has filed a complaint with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

Dylan Bedortha, the group's advocacy associate who set up the sign, formerly worked as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observer in Hawaii'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 worse 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 member.

The complaint asks the commission to determine the responsibility of the U.S. government for human rights abuses against foreign workers in Hawaii.

Most of the foreign workers aboard the Pacific Paradise were from Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and Kiribati, and they were not part of the regular crew.

Officials said the boat was not on a fishing trip before it crashed.

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 Hawaii, 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 (17-meter) Jane, took on water and capsized about 110 miles (177 kilometers) off Hawaii's Big Island on Nov. 27.

The crew sent a mayday call and got into a life raft before being rescued by another fishing vessel.

Must Read

US imposes terrorism-related sanctions against bin Laden son

Jan 5, 2017

The Obama administration has announced terrorism-related sanctions against the son of Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden

Poll: Most young people say gov't should pay for health care

Apr 4, 2017

A GenForward poll says most young Americans want any health care overhaul under President Donald Trump to look a lot like the Affordable Care Act signed into law by his predecessor, President Barack Obama

Israeli ex-spy chief says Palestinian state crucial to peace

Aug 30, 2016

The former head of Israel's Mossad spy agency says the establishment of an independent Palestinian state is crucial to Mideast peace, joining the ranks of retired security men to urge the government to seek a two-state solution

People also read these

US imposes terrorism-related sanctions against bin Laden son

Jan 5, 2017

The Obama administration has announced terrorism-related sanctions against the son of Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden

Poll: Most young people say gov't should pay for health care

Apr 4, 2017

A GenForward poll says most young Americans want any health care overhaul under President Donald Trump to look a lot like the Affordable Care Act signed into law by his predecessor, President Barack Obama

Israeli ex-spy chief says Palestinian state crucial to peace

Aug 30, 2016

The former head of Israel's Mossad spy agency says the establishment of an independent Palestinian state is crucial to Mideast peace, joining the ranks of retired security men to urge the government to seek a two-state solution

Weather, 20 December
Houston Weather
+7

High: +11° Low: -2°

Humidity: 83%

Wind: NNE - 7 KPH

Canberra Weather
+27

High: +27° Low: +17°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: W - 20 KPH

Roissy-en-France Weather
+6

High: +6° Low: -5°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: ENE - 7 KPH

Florence Weather
+9

High: +9° Low: +6°

Humidity: 97%

Wind: ENE - 17 KPH

Parga Weather
+7

High: +16° Low: +4°

Humidity: 100%

Wind: SE - 25 KPH