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Ron Mizutani

Hauula Shark Reminder Of New Law

A city crew removes the finless shark. Ron Mizutani photo

Shark.

The word alone evokes strong emotion. Use it in a headline and it instantly grabs the attention of readers. Mention the word on television and it makes viewers stop, listen and watch.

Sharks are without question one of the most misunderstood and mysterious animals on the planet. A simple picture of one, regardless of species, can strike fear, anxiousness and sometimes even hate in people.

So it’s no wonder I recently received an anonymous email that was simple, short and not very sweet. It read: “Give me a break, Ron. It’s just one shark, one less monster in the ocean.”

The comment was made in response to a story about a 6-foot blacktip shark that washed ashore near a popular swimming spot in Hauula. It was wrapped in fishnets; an apparent victim of an irresponsible fisherman. But there was more to this troubling picture. The shark’s dorsal fin was cut off.

Laie resident Bessie Kamakeeaina alerted me about the shark. She was concerned about getting back in the ocean for her daily swim and appalled by the criminal act.

“We have to malama (care for) our ocean and malama our animals,” says Kamakeeaina. “We can’t just be mean to these creatures, because they supply us with food here. You have to have compassion for the waters and the sea life.”

Hauula resident and Brigham Young UniversityHawaii student Megan Simpson was puzzled by it all.

“It’s terrible, I don’t know why you would do that to any animal,” says Simpson. “It’s just not right.”

Blacktip sharks are timid and aren’t considered highly dangerous to humans. They are one of the most common large sharks in coastal waters. They are caught by commercial fisheries throughout the world for their high meat quality and for their fins, which are used for shark fin soup.

Kamakeeaina wasn’t sure why someone would only take the dorsal fin and leave the rest. She says whoever did this doesn’t understand that the shark is considered by some families to be their aumakua, family deity or protector.

“To eat or sell it to a restaurant, we don’t know,” she says with frustration. “Even if it got into somebody’s net they should have called someone to come out and get it. I’m sorry that this happened.”

But whether it’s one or all, it is against Hawaii law. As of July 1, 2011, it is illegal to possess, sell, trade or distribute shark fins. Restaurants were given one year to get rid of their shark fins or face stiff fines. Violators can face a $5,000 to $15,000 fine. A second offense could cost you $15,000 to $35,000 and forfeiture of property, and a third offense could cost you $35,000 to $50,000 and up to a year in prison.

“As for the missing fin, it could be anybody because fins are worth something,” says Punaluu resident Wesley Woodward. “No matter how you try to put laws up, laws are made to be broken but aren’t supposed to be. When people are desperate they’ll do anything.”

A city crew was eventually called to remove the shark from the shoreline. The crew showed much care and respect for the dead animal as it was taken to a nearby baseyard in Laie for proper disposal.

But regardless of your opinion on sharks, the bottom line is this was a criminal act, even on a dead animal. It is prohibited by state law but it is clear not everyone knows that yet.

So to the person who fired off an email to me:

Yes, this was only one animal. But to many people, it was one too many.

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