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Thursday, June 22, 2000

New state law
bans shark finning

If you want a shark fin,
you must bring the whole
shark back to shore first

By Lori Tighe


No longer will it be legal for fishermen in Hawaii to cut the fins of sharks and throw the fish back into the ocean to die.

Gov. Ben Cayetano was to sign a bill that restricts the controversial practice of shark finning into law today.

The law prohibits harvesting of sharks just for their fins, and bringing shark fins into the state unless the fins were taken from sharks landed whole.

"I'm very pleased that the Hawaii Legislature, and now the governor, are ending shark finning," said Bob Endreson of the Western Pacific Fisheries Coalition, a collaboration of conservationists and fishermen for the responsible use of marine resources.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds of shark fins have been landed in Hawaiian waters annually. A ban is expected to reduce the income of Hawaii fishermen by an estimated $1.2 to $1.5 million a year according to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. Shark fins are used to make shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy, which can sell for as much as $100 a bowl.

The U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico states have banned shark finning since 1993, while the practice has soared in the Western Pacific over the past few years.

From 1991 to 1998, the number of sharks killed solely for their fins increased by 2,500 percent in waters off Hawaii.

Despite widespread public concern, the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council has repeatedly refused to ban the practice.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to ban shark finning nationwide with a vote of 390-to-1. The bill is now pending in the Senate.

"This is a clear message to the U.S. Congress that the people of Hawaii support measures to end the wasteful practice of shark finning," Endreson said. "The U.S. Senate should move quickly to pass a nationwide shark finning ban that covers all U.S. waters."

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