The new ‘House Bill 533’ legislation was announced by Governor David Ige on 2021’s World Oceans Day and came into effect on 1 January 2022, making Hawaii the first US state to ban shark fishing. The move comes after Hawaii already banned the sale, trade, distribution and possession of shark fins in 2010.
The ban now makes it illegal to knowingly capture, entangle, or kill any species of shark in Hawaiian state marine waters. Offenders will be fined $500 for a first offense, $2,000 for a second offense, and $10,000 for a third and any subsequent offenses. Additional penalties might include the seizure of commercial marine licenses, vessels and fishing equipment, as well as substantial administrative fines.
Brian Neilson, administrator of the Division of Aquatic Resources in Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, said: “We are well aware of how important sharks are to maintain healthy marine ecosystems. We also recognise their importance in native Hawaiian cultural practices and beliefs.” However, he made sure to add that even though the fishing ban has gone into effect, “we still have work to do before it’s fully implemented”.
As an example, conservationists urge legislators to establish regulations that limit the use of gill nets and other forms of fishing gear in areas that have been identified as shark nursery habitats.
Furthermore, the new law will not apply to people with special activity permits, shark fishing for public safety purposes, sharks taken outside of state marine waters with proper documentation, sharks captured, entangled, or killed for self-defense or the defense of another as well as sharks captured or killed according to a permit issued by the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
Monitoring legal sport fishing activities will have its own set of difficulties, while it is not clear how the government will ensure that the “incidental capture and release of sharks while targeting other species is not a violation”. The DLNR pointed out: “It is recommended that people avoid fishing in areas known to be frequented by sharks, especially pupping areas, and use barbless circle hooks. If a shark is caught accidentally from a boat, avoid bringing it onto the vessel whenever possible. To release it, cut the line as safely as possible close to the shark’s mouth.”
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Photography courtesy of Unsplash.