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Tuesday, May 2, 2000

Fishery council’s
finning limit stops
short of ban

By Mary Adamski


The federal agency governing fishing in Hawaiian waters stopped short of a complete ban on the lucrative practice of cutting fins off sharks caught within 200 miles of shore.

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council agreed yesterday to ban the use of bottom long-line gear which has been used to take up to 20 metric tons of nearshore sharks per trip. The new regulation extends the council's protection of sharks that already banned catching sharks with drift gill nets.

The council noted in a resolution that a proposed ban on all shark finning, which was before the state Legislature for a final vote today, is inconsistent with the federal agency's policy.

The bill would require that all sharks caught in Hawaii must be landed whole.

An existing council regulation provides that all species except the blue shark must be landed whole or dressed. In March the council voted to limit the Hawaii longline fishing fleet to 50,000 blue sharks annually and one shark per trip for other species.

The blue shark is a highly migratory, open-ocean shark that is taken incidentally by long-line vessels fishing for tuna and swordfish, according to a council release. Most of the sharks are taken beyond the 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

The landing of amputated fins is banned in 17 states along Atlantic, Gulf and California coast. Honolulu has become a key transshipment point for dried shark fins which reportedly bring up to $40 a pound in Asia.

Finning has grown to a multimillion-dollar sideline for long-liner crews.

The Fishery Management Council also debated a proposed ban on the use of scuba gear to spearfish and will continue to consider the topic at meetings June 13-16 at the Maui Prince Hotel.

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