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Thursday, March 2, 2000

Fisheries council
favors shark quota

By Pat Gee


The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council has voted in favor of a quota of 50,000 blue sharks that fishermen would be allowed to land per year for finning.

But the debate is far from over.

Walter Ikehara of the state Division of Aquatic Resources was one of two council members voting against the proposal, saying the division is in favor of the full utilization of sharks.

Rod McInnis, a National Marine Fisheries Service administrator, said he was against allowing 50,000 sharks to be finned without a study to see how it will affect the marine ecosystem.

During a four-day decision-making session at the Ala Moana Hotel that began Monday, the council voted 4-2 to make a final recommendation on the issue, which could become a regulation next year.

The recommendation also limits the take of non-blue sharks to one per trip, which must be landed dressed (beheaded and gutted) or whole.

Stephanie Fried of the Environmental Defense group said removing just the fins from sharks is akin to hunters "wiping out" herds of buffalo just for their hides and tongues.

"Let us not allow history to repeat itself," she said.

"It would be irresponsible for the council to allow 50,000 sharks to be killed each year" before a study is done.

William Aila, a small-boat fisherman from Waianae, said he was offended by Council Chairman James Cook's previous remarks that the cultural aspects of killing sharks "do not count" when Council bylaws "compel you to base your decision on it" among other considerations.

Many Hawaiians regard sharks as "aumakua" or symbols of their ancestral spirits.

Linda Paul of the National Audubon Society said the cost of enforcing the quota would be a "nightmare" and also called for full utilization of the shark.

The practice of throwing the shark overboard after it has been finned has been called wasteful and cruel by opponents of finning.

Proponents of finning do not consider it wasteful to discard the carcass because most of the shark's flesh is inedible due to the high amount of ureic acid.

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