Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hawaiian Shark Fin Ban: a great victory in the legislature, but what next?

SB 2169, the Hawaiian ban on the sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins, has passed the state legislature and awakes signature by Hawaii's governor. This is a significant moment on several counts:
  • It eliminates Hawaii as a major distribution hub for shark fins
  • It sets a new standard for other states or countries to emulate
  • It places the social heritage of Hawaiians' respect for sharks over the lucrative economic interests of the commercial shark fishing industry
  • It recognizes the importance of the shark as a vital member of a healthy marine ecosystem
In the final vote, the sole opposition came from Rep. Riki Karamatsu, who had opposed the legislation, then seemed to favor it, and then at the eleventh hour re-took his opposing position. Because of his apparent support from the shark fishery industry, I took the position that he would remain opposed to the legislation. While some commended the representative when he appeared in favor of it, I was skeptical and adopted a what-and-see attitude.

It usually feels good to be right, but not when it means that it confirms the undue influence that economic interests can have over politicians.

Hardy congratulations are well deserved to those legislators who initiated and supported SB 2169 and to the many citizens who worked hard to promote it through some difficult times. But we must still be vigilant.
  • As Hawaii's shark fin distribution business is dismantled, will the business move to other potential sites: San Francisco, other Pacific islands, or back to Asian soil?
  • Will Hawaii continue on this path and consider banning or limiting business in other shark products like cartilage, liver oil, or meat (at least from highly threatened species)?
  • Will future legislation, spawned from backroom deals with industry lobbyists, weaken the current legislation?
For now, it is a time to celebrate a great victory and loudly commend Hawaii's decision makers for siding with sensible conservation. And then tomorrow we carry on.

Read Washington Post article.

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