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Shark-finning incidents of Hawaii island raise alarm

Marine biologists say they are alarmed by recent shark finning incidents on Hawaii island, citing photographs of two oceanic whitetip sharks lacking fins and still alive, and that of a dead, gutted whitetip reef shark.

Oceanic whitetip sharks are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and dive tour operators reported seeing two off the coast of West Hawaii that were still alive but their fins had been removed off coast.

“Shark finning is not a new phenomenon, but the recent number of incidents is concerning,” said Stacia Marcoux, a Fish and Habitat Monitoring Technician with the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources. “This is especially true for the threatened oceanic whitetip. We hope that once people see these photos they will join us in condemning and discouraging this kind of activity regardless of its legality.”

In June, DAR personnel found a three-and-a-half-foot long whitetip reef shark finned, gutted, and dead at Kaalualu Bay.

DLNR said photos of the oceanic whitetips were provided by Big Island Divers and Aquatic Life Divers.

“It’s heartbreaking to see these terrible wounds on these individuals. Sharks deserve our respect and we’re encouraged that most tour operators are educating their clients about this issue. No one wants to see an injured shark swimming by,” said Marcoux.

State law prohibits the take, killing, possession, sale, or offer for sale of whitetip reef shark and other shark species. It is illegal to intentionally catch a whitetip reef shark to remove a fin within the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area (HAR 13-60.4-4). Additionally it is illegal to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade or distribute shark fins anywhere in Hawai‘i (HAR 188-40.7).

To report illegal or suspicious activities, call the DLNR hotline at 643-DLNR (643-3567).

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