Shark, ray protection bills pass committees

  • A manta ray glides through the water in Keauhou Bay. (Barry Fackler/Community Contributor)

KAILUA-KONA — Protection for sharks and manta rays is making progress in the state Legislature.

This week, bills introduced in the House and Senate mandating protection for the cartilaginous fish passed their first committee hearings. If signed into law, the legislation would make it illegal to knowingly kill, capture or abuse any variety of shark or ray in state waters.

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The House Committee on Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs on Wednesday voted 5-0, with two members excused, to pass House Bill 808 with amendments. Introduced by Rep. Nicole Lowen (D-North Kona) among others, HB 808 needs to secure a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee by Feb. 15 to remain alive.

Meanwhile a companion bill in the Senate passed its first committee Monday with the Committee on Water and Land voting 4-0, with one member excused, to send Senate Bill 489 with amendments to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Among the amendments is the insertion of language that exempts a person if they are defending themselves against death or bodily harm. Hawaiian words associated with rays and other technical and other unsubstantive changes for clarity and consistency were also added.

Like the House bill, SB 489, introduced by Sen. Mike Gabbard (D-Oahu) with Sen. Russell Ruderman (D-Puna and Ka‘u) co-sponsoring, needs to secure a hearing before the Judiciary Committee by Feb. 15.

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Both bills classify the crimes as misdemeanor offenses and include exemptions for research, cultural practices and public safety. If the legislation becomes law, penalties for a first offense would start at $500 and could stretch all the way to $10,000 for a third offense.

Hawaii passed an anti-finning law, banning the sale and possession of shark fins, in 2010.

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