Posted by: reefrescue | December 9, 2010

Hawaii to ban the possession of shark fins

Hawaii becomes the first state in the nation to ban the possession of shark fins.

 Honolulu – The $48-a-plate shark fin has been a favourite dish to celebrate 80th birthdays and fete out of town VIPs since Vienna Hou’s Chinese restaurant opened 25 years ago.

But Kirin Restaurant customers won’t be dining in that style starting July 1 2011, when Hawaii becomes the first state in the nation to ban the possession of shark fins. The state is attempting to help prevent the overfishing and extinction of sharks around the world.

Governor Linda Lingle on Friday signed a bill prohibiting the possession, sale or distribution of shark fins. The bill passed the state House and Senate with broad support earlier this year.

Environmentalists say the tradition is leading to a dangerous depletion of sharks worldwide.

A report last year by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates 32% of open ocean shark species are in danger of becoming extinct primarily because of overfishing.

Hawaii’s lawmakers heard testimony that sharks are being killed for their fins at a rate of 89 million per year.

“It’s not a local issue. It’s an international issue,” said state Senator Clayton Hee, the sponsor of the Hawaii bill.

Restaurants serving fins will have until next July to run through their inventory. After that, those caught with fin will have to pay a fine between $5 000 to $15 000 for a first offence. A third offence would result in a fine between $35 000 to $50 000 and up to a year in prison.

Shark conservation activists say they hope the law inspires other states and the federal government to follow suit.

“This is a landmark bill,” said Marie Levine, the founder and executive director of the Shark Research Institute in Princeton, New Jersey. “This is enormously important for the conservation of sharks.”

Conservation efforts suffered a major setback earlier this year when an effort to protect six shark species under the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, failed in March.

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