KAILUA-KONA — Protection for all sharks and rays within state waters has moved another step closer to reality.
Senate Bill 2079 cleared the state House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs with amendments on March 13 after securing a 5-0 vote. Rep. Richard Creagan, D-South Kona, portions of North Kona and Ka’u, was among the representatives voting in favor of the bill; two representatives were excused from the vote.
The proposal seeks to protect all sharks and rays within state waters for ecological purposes, and their value to Native Hawaiian cultural practices and the ocean recreation industry. The committee on March 13 added an exception for sharks taken outside of state marine waters and possessed on a vessel in state marine waters pursuant to a federally managed fishery for the purpose of landing the catch in the state.
In its current form, the bill would establish fines for “knowingly capture, take, possess, abuse, or entangle any shark, whether alive or dead, or kill any shark, within state marine waters.” It would also expand similar protections afforded to manta rays in 2009 to include all rays — or hihimanu.
Violating the law would be a misdemeanor offense with fines ranging from $500 to $10,000 and an administrative fine up to $10,000 per specimen.
Exceptions are listed for research and educational purposes, as well as traditional and customary rights protected by the Hawaii Constitution.
Senate Bill 2079 passed its third reading in the state Senate and was sent to the House earlier this month. The full House passed on it first reading March 8 and referred it for hearings before two committees.
To remain alive, the measure needs to pass a second reading by the House and secure a hearing before the Committee on Judiciary.