Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hawaii Shark Fin Bill - Update

We just got a recent update from Stefanie Brendl of Shark Allies today.

Her efforts in Hawaii are a prime example of how boots on the ground efforts can help shark conservation regionally. Her teams efforts to change the laws regarding legal shark fin operators in Hawaii are an encouragement to the industry.

We recently had a conservation with someone who thinks it is "o.k" to support commercial shark take and fining in New Zealand. Efforts like Stefanies and the overwhelming support she has garnered from the shark dive industry show that this activity is never "o.k" in any form:

From Stefani:

We were able to get bill through two committees in the Senate and the Senate vote. Then it travelled over to the House, where it was referred to 3 committees. Since this is a short session, committing a bill to 3 is a clear indication that they wanted it killed. It was nearly impossible with the time constraints, to get it through in time. But we did.

The bill was struck down in the last committee, House Judiciary. Everyone thought it was dead. We didn't give up and put pressure on the committee chair and co-chair to bring it back to hearing. This is when the Hawaiian community finally started to get involved.

With great reluctance from chair Karamatsu we were able to bring it back and it was passed out of committee just in the nick of time. It also passed the House floor vote. Mostly because it the bill has a defective date and is therefore forced into committee (see explanation below).

The first conference committee didn't go well. It is apparent that there are a few strong members in the house that are actively fighting to kill this bill. We have been able to address all the opposing groups, including researchers and fisheries. What is left is the fact that people want to continue to eat shark fin soup. There may also be some commercial fishermen that are still lobbying to keep a market for shark fins, but we are not sure.

All we know is that despite the overwhelming evidence and support for this bill, there is a strong group pulling the strings to stop it. And they are not coming out in the open. They are operating in the background of the legislature, influencing key members.

I have been mobilizing the forces with the help of a list of shark organizations, Wild Aid, Mission Blue etc . And we are currently looking to get Chinese support and voices to speak out on the issue as possible. Locally and internationally. Getting lots of letters from Hong Kong and West Coast organizations in support, as well as celebrities.

Right now it really comes down to showing everyone that not all Chinese want to eat shark fin soup anymore. That it is not a cultural attack. It is a question of sustainability.

We are also planning a big press conference on Sunday, and hope to have the Royal order of Kamehamea there to express the view point of the Hawaiian community.

In a few hours we have the 2nd conference meeting. So I have to run.

Here is a link to the bill and it’s status. If you click on the pdf version, you can download the actual bill.

A note to the “Defective Date” at the end of the bill:

This defective date was added by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee chair felt that the current version of the bill was not ready to become law; therefore a defective date was added to give more time for discussion. This also allowed for the bill to stay alive and to continue traveling on its course through the Senate and House. It also forced the bill into “conference”, meaning that after all committees have had hearings and added amendments, representatives from both sides (Senate and House) have to come together to discuss a final version that everyone can agree on. Only then can the defective date be removed.

The ongoing battle:

Shark organizations, activists, celebrities, business leaders and leading marine scientists from all over the world have been actively lending their support through hundreds of letters, statements, phone calls, videos and photos.

Support for this bill, locally and internationally, has been overwhelming. Polls have shown an obvious majority of 72% of Hawaii residents want shark finning to stop and are against allowing shark fin soup.

In Hawaii, the driving forces behind this bill are:

Senator Clayton Hee and his staff

Inga Gibson from the Humane Society of the United States

Vicky and Ginny Tiu

Stefanie Brendl from Shark Allies


Shark Fin Ban Still Alive”- KHON Report by Andrew Pereire

Shark FINale?” – Editorial by Star Bulletin

Ban shark fin possession” – Editorial Star Bulletin

Humans: A dangerous predator” -West Hawaii Today

The Endangered Hawaiian Shark Is Endangering Hawaiian Culture”– by Eryn-Ashlei Bailey

Hawaii Legislators Make Unprecedented Move to Protect Sharks”, PR Web article by Laleh Mohajerani

House Judiciary Chair Defers a Bill to Ban Shark Fins” – Hawaii Reporter

Hawaii revives shark fin ban legislation”- Bikya Masr Egypy

San Francisco Chronicle- letter to the editor by David Barkley

German news on Shark fin bill

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