Anyone who follows me on twitter has probably noticed a lot of tweets about a shark fin bill that was being reviewed in Hawaii. I am glad to inform you that this historic bill has just passed the legislature. It’s but a signature by Governor Lingle away from being enacted into law!
Of the 307 shark species assessed by the IUCN, 64 are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered due to shark finning. As a group, sharks represent the greatest percentage of threatened marine species on the Red List. Despite the overwhelming evidence that these majestic predators are in trouble, only the white, whale and basking sharks are protected internationally under CITES. It was a low day for sharks when the recent CITES Conference of the Parties rejected proposals to protect eight more shark species. But now, Hawaii is standing up for sharks, and in a big way.
Shark finning is a disgusting practice. Most often, sharks are stripped of their fins while they’re still alive and just dropped back into the ocean, to die slowly from lack of oxygen, starvation, or as a meal for another fish. As if it’s not bad enough that it’s cruel and wasteful, sharks populations have plummeted dramatically in the last fifty years, and practices like finning only exacerbate what is already a glaring ecological problem. An estimated 73 million sharks are killed for their fins every year.
Assuming Lingle signs off on the bill, the possession, sale, or distribution of shark fins of any kind will be prohibited in Hawaii as of July 1st, 2010. While shark finning was already illegal in Hawaiian waters, the state allowed the sale and distribution of fins caught elsewhere. Restaurants who have shark fins in their possession on June 30th will have one year to clear them from their inventory. After that point, anyone caught with shark fins faces a minimum penalty of $5,000, and multiple offenses can lead to fines of up to $50,000, seizure of property, and jail time.
This is particularly big in a state with a thriving Asian population. Shark fin soup is not rare here – indeed, it is on the menu at the Chinese restaurant just down the street from where I live. There was a lot of cultural pressure against this bill.
But there was also cultural pressure for this legislation. Many Native Hawaiians consider sharks ‘aumakua (a protective spirit that can take animal form).
As for what this bill means for conservation, Sen. Clayton Hee said it best:
It sends a message to the rest of the world and the nation that Hawaii can be a leader – in this case, a leader in the world’s sustainable ecology
I’ve written out the full text of the measure (below), so you can see for yourself what is being passed. Included in it is the old regulations, which as you can see were much looser, and did not ban the sale or consumption of fins.
Kudos to all who helped get this bill written and passed through the House and Senate! Now, Lingle, do at least one thing right while you’re still governor and sign it (it will make up a little for your incompetency in dealing with the Furlough Fridays).
Hopefully, this bill will send a message to members of the Senate that are mulling over S. 850 (The Shark Conservation Act of 2009), which is currently on the Senate floor. S. 850 would require that sharks be landed with their fins still attached, solving enforcement issues and closing a loophole on the transfer of fins at sea. The bill also allows the U.S. to take actions against countries that have weaker protections for sharks. It is time that we stepped up as a nation to do what is right for our oceans. Otherwise, there won’t be anything left to save.
Full Text of SB2169 SD2 HD2 CD1:
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:
SECTION 1 . Sharks are one of the top predators in the marine food chain and play an important role in our ocean’s ecosystem. Sharks have characteristics that make them more vulnerable to overfishing than most fish, and data from state, federal, and international agencies show a decline in the shark populations both locally and worldwide. Unlike other fish species, most sharks do not reach sexual maturity until seven to twelve years of age and then only give birth to a small litter of young. Thus, sharks cannot rebuild their populations quickly once they are overfished.
The practice of shark finning, where a shark is caught, the fin is cut off, and the shark is returned to the water, causes tens of millions of sharks to die a slow death each year, Some sharks starve to death, others are slowly eaten by other fish, and some drown because most sharks need to keep moving to force water though their gills for oxygen.
Sharks are an essential element of the ocean’s ecosystem, and by reducing the demand for shark fins, Hawaii can help ensure that sharks will not become extinct.
SECTION 2 . Chapter 188, Hawaii Revised Statues, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:
“§188- Shark fins; prohibited. (a) It shal be unlawful for any person to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute shark fins.
(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a), any person who holds a license or permit issued by the department of land and natural resources to conduct research or for educational purposes possesses, sells, offers for sale, trades, or distributes shark fins shall not be subject to the penalties in this section.
(c) Prior to July 1, 2011, any restaurant holding a valid certificate, permit or licesnse issued by the department of health under section 321-11 may possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute shark fins possessed by that restaurant as of July 1, 2010 which are prepared for consumption.
(d) Any person violating this section or any rule adopted pursuant to this section shall be penalized as follows:
1. For a first offense, by an administrative fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $15,000
2. For a second offense, by an administrative fine of not less than $15,000 and not more than $35,000. In addition, shark fins, commercial marine licenses, vessels, fishing equipment, or other property involved in the violation of this section shall be subject to seizure and forfeiture pursuant to chapter 712A; and
3. For a third offense or subsequent offense, by an administrative fine of not less than $35,000 and not more than $50,000 or by imprisonment of not more than one year, or both. In addition, shark fins, commercial marine licenses, vessels, fishing equipment, or other property involved in the violation of this section shall be subject to seizure and forfeiture pursuant to chapter 712A.
(e) In addition to any penalties imposed under subsection (d), any person violating this section or any rule adopted under it shall be subject to any other penalties authorized by section 188-70, and may be assessed administrative fees and costs and attorney’s fees and costs.
(f) The department may adopt rules pursuant to chapter 91 necessary for the purposes of this section.
(g) For the purpose of this section, “shark fin: means the raw or dried fin or tail of a shark.“
SECTION 3. Section 188-40.5, Hawaii Revised Statues, is repealed.
[“[§188-40.5] Sharks; prohibitions; administrative penalties. (a) No person shall knowingly harvest shark fins from the territorial waters of the State, or land shark fins in the State, unless the fins were taken from a shark landed whole in the State.
(b) Any person violating this section or any rule adopted thereunder shall be subject to:
1. Seizure and forfeiture of shark fins, commercial marine license, vellel , and fishing equipment; and
2. An administrative fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $15,000. In addition, the violator may be assessed administrative fees and costs, and attorney’s fees and costs.
(c) Any criminal prosecution or penalty imposed for violation of this section or any rule adopted thereunder shall not preclude seizure and forfeiture pursuant to chapter 712A, or the imposition of any administrative fines and costs or attorney’s fees and costs under this section.
(d) This section shall apply to the following vessels when fishing outside the territorial waters of the State:
1. Vessels that hold a fishing license or permit issues by the State as a prerequisite to participation int he fishery, or that have owners or captains who hold a fishing license or permit issued by the State as a prerequisite to participation in the fishery;
2. Vessels that are registered under section 200-31, or
3. Vessels with federal documentation that lists as a homeport a location within the State.
provided that the enforcement of this section on these vessels outside the territorial waters of the State stall not apply if enforcement of this section is in violation of, or in conflict with, federal law.
(e) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, this section shall apply only to vessels that off load cargo in the State or its territorial waters.
(f) As used in this section:
“Land” or “landed”means when the shark or any part thereof is first brought to shore.
“Shark fin” means the raw or dried fin of a shark with the shark carcass removed
“Whole” means the entire shark with its head and flesh intact, allowing for the removal of the blood, internal organs, and tail at sea.”]
SECTION 4. This Act does not affect rights and duties that matured, penalties that were incurred, and proceedings that were begun before its effective date.
SECTION 5. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.
SECTION 6. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2010.