Monday, February 1, 2010

Hawaii Shark News: prohibitions, good and bad

There are some interesting shark conservation and ecotourism developments coming out of Hawaii. I received emails from Stefanie Brendl, who operates Hawaii Shark Encounters, noting some good news and not so good news. Okay, bad news first. . .

Legislation To Ban Shark Encounters
For nearly a year now, Hawaii has been wrestling with the on-again, off-again issue of curtailing all shark ecotourism operations. It has become a political football between island council members and state legislators with arguments including appeals to fear-based public misconceptions, rebutting scientific studies, and projections of small business and tourism economic losses. (More background info from prior posts in April and July.)

The issue has resurfaced with legislation again designed to curtail all shark ecotourism operations. The shark ecotoruism opponents have complicated matters with a series of similarly worded pieces of legislation, blitzing the political landscape with as many as five separate legislative proposals.
However, two amendments have been proposed that would "grandfather" in the two existing operations on Oahu's North Shore.

The text of all the proposed bills (HB2459, HB2664, HB2705, HB2483, SB2330, and the amendments HB2900 and SB2655) can be read at the Hawaii state web site (click here).

If you would like to express support to the Hawaii legislators that are championing for the continuation of the current shark ecotourism operators, you can email:
Senator Robert Bunda,
Representative Michael Magaoay,

Legislation To Prohibit Shark Fins
Here's the good news. Stefanie has relayed the announcement of proposed legislation to prohibit the sale and distribution of shark fins in the state. Specifically designed to address a loophole that has allowed containers of shark fins to be sold and shipped through Hawaiian ports, the legislation, SB2169, will address a long-standing issue in international shark conservation as Hawaii is a recognized distribution center for shark products. As an example, for my shark conservation speaking engagements, I use a can of shark fin soup as a prop - a product of Thailand, distributed in Hawaii and which I purchased from an online Hawaiian distributor/merchant. (The only such purchase I have ever made, by the way.)

Supporters of the legislation are also hoping to refine the wording so that it can expand the definition of shark fin products to include shark fin soup itself.

As often is the case with new legislation, there will be several public hearings. If you would like to provide public testimony (no rants, just solid reasonable commentary), there is an online process (click here).

Or you can email your support to the two senators who introduced the bill:
Senator Robert Bunda,
Senator Clayton Hee,


Animals and Earth Crew said...

Nathan Ciurzynski said...

Definitely sad to see shark diving in Hawaii on the outs.

RTSea said...

All is not lost yet. While Maui has curtailed shark diving and Oahu is struggling with the aforementioned legislation, there's still a window of opportunity if people respond with reasonable, insightful commentary.

Part of all of this is driven by insupportable hysteria, but concern for sharks is also taking place (Senator Hee, who supports the ban, also favors the anti-shark fin legislation).

Hopefully, in the end, reasonable minds will see that properly run shark ecotourism operations can serve a valuable role in shark appreciation and conservation.