Hawaiʻi Enacts Landmark Shark Protection Act on World Oceans Day

Photo Credit Albert Kok

On World Ocean’s Day Governor David Ige signed into law, House Bill 553; Relating to Shark Protection, protecting more than 40 species of sharks that frequent state waters in Hawaiʻi.

The bill, introduced by Representative Nicole Lowen (House District 6 – Kailua-Kona, Hōlualoa, Kalaoa, Honokōhau), and championed in the Senate by Senator Mike Gabbard (Senate District 20 – Kapolei, Makakilo, and portions of ‘Ewa, Kalaeloa, and Waipahu), prohibits the intentional or knowing capture, killing or entanglement of any shark in state waters.

The law will bring an end to shark trophy hunting charters, the take of baby sharks for the aquarium pet trade and the intentional killing or mutilation of sharks for their teeth, jaws or other parts.

It will not criminalize the accidental capture and release of a shark if incidentally captured while lawfully fishing for other species. The bill also exempts permitted research, education and special activity permits for cultural use.

“We thank Governor Ige for signing this important bill into law. Sharks are key apex predators who are critical to our oceans health and resiliency, especially in light of growing negative impacts from climate change.”

Hawai’i Representative Nicole Lowen.

“Manō (shark), are not only important to our reef and ocean ecosystems, but are sacred ʻaumakua (ancestral guardians) of many Native Hawaiians. It is time we extend our Aloha to these guardians of the sea and afford them the protections they so need and deserve,” said Senator Mike Gabbard

Research has shown that reef shark population abundance has declined by upwards of 90 percent around the main Hawaiian Islands. Globally, 71 percent of oceanic shark species including endangered oceanic whitetip sharks are facing potential extinction.

The bill, which becomes law on Jan. 1, 2022, had support from local marine protection and native Hawaiian organizations including For the Fishes, Mālama Manō, Pono Advocacy, the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter and the Hawaiʻi Reef and Ocean Coalition, and by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Department of Land and Natural Resources.