Bills would protect Hawaii’s sharks, rays

The Garden Island - January 19, 2019

State Sen. Mike Gabbard and state Rep. Nicole Lowen have introduced companion measures in their respective chambers that will offer greater protections to Hawaii’s sharks and rays.

The proposals would make it a misdemeanor to knowingly capture, take, possess, abuse, or entangle any shark or ray, whether alive or dead, or kill any shark or ray, within state marine waters.

The laws would provide exceptions, including those for research, cultural practices and the protection of public safety. Penalties would range from $500 for a first offense to $10,000 for a third or subsequent offense.

While Hawaii continues to have the strongest anti-finning law, passed in 2010, which also prohibits the possession of fins, there is no law that explicitly prohibits the intentional killing, capture, abuse or entanglement of sharks or rays.

“As apex predators, sharks and rays help to keep the ocean ecosystem in balance, and protecting them from unnecessary harm is essential to the health of our coral reefs,” Lowen said. “I’m hopeful that this year will be the year that we are able to take this important step.”

“Sharks (mano) and Rays (hihimano) are key marine species, important to the resliency of our oceans. They deserve full protection under law from unnecessary killing or exploitation,” Gabbard said.

The recent possible sighting of “Deep Blue,” the largest known great white shark (mano niuhi), off Oahu, is a hopeful sign that this may be the year that Hawaii’s sharks and rays earn protection from intentional killing.

A similar measure, Senate Bill 2079, passed the Senate unanimously last year with broad public support, including OHA and DLNR, but stalled in the House. This year’s bills await introduction and assignment of new bill numbers.

Gabbard is chair of the Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee.

Lowen is chair of the House Environmental Protection and Energy Committee.