(BIVN) – A bill that would have established penalties for capturing or killing rays and sharks in Hawaiʻian waters has died in the state legislature, despite wide-spread support.
Senate Bill 2079 SD2 HD1 passed through the State Senate, as well as the House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources, & Hawaiian Affairs, before stalling in the House Judiciary Committee.
According to the description of the bill:
Establishes penalties and fines for any person who knowingly captures, takes, possesses, abuses, or entangles any shark, whether alive or dead, or kills any shark, within state marine waters and makes it a misdemeanor. Expands the existing prohibition on knowingly capturing or killing a manta ray to all rays. Expands the prohibition regarding rays to cover knowingly capturing, taking, possessing, abusing, or entangling a ray, whether alive or dead, or killing a ray, within state marine waters. Provides certain exemptions. (SB2079 HD1)
The bill had a lot of support as it made its way through the legislature. For example, The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Animal Rights Hawai‘i, Hawaiian Civic Club of Honolulu, The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International, Oahu County Committee on Legislative Priorities of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, West Hawaii Humane Society, Keiko Conservation International, I.SEA. Conservation, One Ocean Research & Diving, Maui Island Mermaids, Surfrider Foundation – Oahu Chapter, and numerous individuals testified in favor of the measure, according to committee reports.
The Nakachi ohana from Hawaiʻi made the trip to Oahu on multiple occasions to speak in support of the bill, and the shark, or mano, itself.
“We come to represent fellow Hawaiians and the sharks and rays that this bill seeks to protect,” said Kaikea Nakachi, a biological oceanographer. “We fought for over 10 years in West Hawaiʻi to protect sharks and rays, we’re
here to continue that fight because it’s protection that they once had and need once again.”
“Their cultural role, the cultural identity they embody,” Nakachi added, “that alone I think is is worth preserving at all costs.”
“I encourage you all to come to Moku O Keawe,” testified Kaikea’s father, Mike Nakachi. “We have a wonderful heiau, Heiau o Kapuni, right there at Puʻukoholā. King Kamehameha himself sat on the Alapa’i rock.”
“Sharks were revered,” Nakachi said. “They were chiefs and chiefesses of the sea. Unfortunately, who was given as
offering? Humans. So, I come from a perspective that my father learned from his mother and a wonderful first auntie. Aunty Pilahi Paki told us some very special things about our lineage and about our right to malama and take care of something that’s very sacred.”
The House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources, & Hawaiian Affairs noted that “there has been ample discussion indicating that the practice of feeding sharks leads to aggression in sharks,” and encouraged the next committee to continue the discussion and to consider potential methods to curtail this practice. The committee further noted “its concerns about baiting sharks and rays in order to draw them to certain locations for tourism purposes. Sharks and rays have a unique significance to the Native Hawaiian culture, and baiting these animals for tourism purposes exploits them for the financial gain of the tourism industry, at the expense of cultural respect for the sharks and rays.”