HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Sept. 18 over whether the Department of Land and Natural Resources should be issuing licenses to foreigners on longline fishing fleets.

Get news on the go with KHON 2GO, KHON’s morning podcast, every morning at 8

State law says that people who are not legally admitted to the U.S. may not fish commercially in state waters.

“Quite frankly, I don’t think the fishermen would be too concerned if the Supreme Court ruled that DLNR has no authority, that there’s no prosecution and DLNR has no authority to require a license for them to fish outside state waters and to land the fish in Hawaii and sell it,” said Hawaii Longline Association attorney Geoff Davis.

“The INS knows these people are here. They’re in the United States, in the waters of the United States, and they’re lawfully admitted. They can’t come on shore but they’re on a boat,” said deputy attorney general on behalf of the DLNR.

“It’s nonsense,” said plaintiffs attorney Lance Collins. “People who are detained on their ships and are subject to a deportation order are not lawfully admitted to the United States.”

Always Investigating first reported in 2013 on foreign fishermen describing poor working conditions, low pay and mistreatment.

A few years later, the Longline Association implemented a code of conduct for standardized working conditions and resources for worker protections.