scientific data to the contrary, the primary species of shark caught by Hawaii-based
fishers is being portrayed as slow maturing, low producing, cruelly finned while alive and
near extinction (Advertiser,Aug .26).
Its time for a reality check.
The blue shark matures in four to six years and has an average of 20 to 40 (and as many
as 135) pups per liter. National Marine Fisheries Service observers have documented that
98 percent of the blue sharks caught by Hawaii fishers are killed before processing, in
ways similar to the harvesting of other fish species. Data collected by service scientists
for nearly a decade and by Japanese scientists the past 14 years indicate that the blue
shark population in the Pacific is healthy.
Granted, there are some coastal sharks that are slow maturing and low
producing, and in some areas, such as the East Coast, certain shark species are being
overfished. But lets not use facts about East Coast mako to discuss Pacific blue
sharks. And, unless we want to limit recreational and charter-boat take of yellowfin tuna
to a three-fish bag limit, lets not wholeheartedly adopt regulations for
Hawaiis fishery just because they have done it for the East and Gulf Coast fishery.
The bottom line is fishers go
to sea for fish and bring fish to land for money. About 1993, the market for shark fins
became lucrative, so Hawaii fishers began to land shark fins. Once markets are developed
in Hawaii for the meat, skin, teeth, jaws, cartilage and liver of blue sharks, the fishers
will land those parts as well.
Two firms on Maui hope to use blue sharks to produce smoked meat and a potential
cancer-fighting dietary supplement (Pacific Business News, Aug.20). By supporting such a
venture through needed research and development funds, the state could address the shark
issue in a positive manner and potentially boost Hawaiis economy as well.
The alternative is to rely on regulations to stop shark finning. Such regulations, if
they were to seriously and fairly address the issue, could cost the state $65 million a
year in revenue and would require the resources and energies of state and federal
enforcement officers with already demanding schedules.
The regulations should apply not only to the 400 crew members in the Hawaii longline
fishery, but also to the ika-shibi hand line and other fishers who are known to practice
To be consistent with such
regulations, shark fins transshipped from foreign vessels would have to be prohibited, a
regulation that could potentially cause these vessels to bypass Honolulu as a refueling
and reprovisioning port.
To be further consistent, the importing of shark fins for domestic and foreign
suppliers would be prohibited - in other words, no shark fin soup, even if a
4000-year-old-culture of a prominent section of Hawaiis populace and its visitors
esteem it as important.
Regulations could make Hawaii a shark-fin free zone, but they would only superficially
address the shark-finning issue. The shark fins caught by Hawaii-based fishers account for
only 1 percent of the shark fins on the world market. The U.N. International Plan of
Action and the impending U.S. Plan of Action for the Management and Conservation of
Sharks, which is to be developed by 2001, both propose for utilization of shark.
Conforming to these plans and time line, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery
Management Council is examining options to amend the fishery management plan that
regulates pelagic shark species in the exclusive economic zone (generally, 3 to 200 miles
offshore) of Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and remote U.S.