arwleft.gif (1297 bytes) BACK TO REBUTTAL

Isle sharks aren't endangered

The blue shark population in the Pacific is healthy, and 98 percent of those caught by Hawaii fishermen are killed before finning. ISLAND VOICES


Jim Cook is chairman of the Western Pacific Reigonal Fishery Management Council


Despite 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).

It’s 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 let’s 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, let’s not wholeheartedly adopt regulations for Hawaii’s 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 Hawaii’s 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 fishing.



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 Hawaii’s 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. Pacific islands.


arwleft.gif (1297 bytes) BACK TO REBUTTAL