Hawaii Marks World Oceans Day With 9 New Laws To Protect Sharks And Marine Life

Beginning January 1, severe penalties will be imposed for the intentional or willful capture, entanglement or death of a shark in state marine waters.

House Bill 553, which has not been passed in previous legislative sessions, was promulgated by Governor David Ige on Tuesday.

Opponents have called for exemptions for research, subsistence fishing and bycatch. While some exemptions will be allowed – for example, murder in self-defense, accidental capture or in accordance with protected cultural practices – the State Department of Lands and Natural Resources is now responsible for establishing rules based on the project. of law.

The penalty for a first offense will be $ 500 and up to $ 10,000 for a third or subsequent offense. Administrative fees, fees and attorney fees may also be levied.

Sanctions could also involve the seizure and confiscation of all sharks or parts of sharks caught and commercial marine licenses, vessels and fishing gear.

Endangered Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks live offshore and enter the shallower waters of Hilo Bay, Kaneohe Bay, Waimea Bay and other parts of Hawaii, according to the Division. of the aquatic resources of the DLNR. A new law will protect sharks in the state’s marine waters. NOAA Fisheries

State Representative Nicole Lowen, lead author of HB 553, said the legislation was “in the works for many years”. She credited her stint to Inga Gibson, policy director of Pono Advocacy, and Michael Nakachi and his son, Kaikea, a father-son duo who advocate more culturally sensitive methods for academic shark research.

The bill signing ceremony in the Governor’s Ceremonial Hall at the State Capitol as well as via Zoom was scheduled to mark World Oceans Day, which was established by the United Nations in 2008 to inform the public of the impact of humans on the oceans and to mobilize their sustainable management.

“They are the lungs of our planet and a major source of food and medicine and an essential part of the biosphere,” says the UN of the oceans, which cover more than 70% of the Earth.

“It’s a big day for the ocean.” – DLNR President Suzanne Case

But, as Ige noted in his remarks, Hawaii faces “unprecedented” challenges related to climate change, heat waves, coral bleaching, degraded reefs, declining ocean populations and more. great pollution of human origin such as runoff.

In addition to the shark protection bill, Ige signed eight other related measures. They cover a range of issues focused on ocean conservation, resource management, regulation and law enforcement.

Bill 1019 establishes a special five-year ocean stewardship fund and a $ 1 user fee for the conservation, restoration and enhancement of Hawaii’s aquatic resources.

According to the DLNR, the fees – which could generate between $ 14 million and over $ 30 million over 15 years, depending on tourism figures – will be collected by commercial shipping operators who provide on-board activities to passengers or passengers. shipless services to customers. .

“Hundreds of millions of visitors have enjoyed our magnificent ocean resources for decades without directly contributing to their management and protection,” DLNR President Suzanne Case said in a press release. “This new fund provides a framework for collecting fees from visitors who use our waters. “

A snorkeling tour in Molokini in 2018. A new law will assess user fees for commercial maritime operators. DLNR

Several of the measures approved by the Ige aim to enable the sustainable exploitation of marine life.

Bill 1017 repeals a section of Hawaii’s revised statutes that prohibits the capture or killing of female lobsters, Kona crabs, and Samoan crabs. Since the 2006 law, the bill explains, new information shows that the Kona crab population is “in very good health.”

It was also determined that banning female lobsters could potentially “create a sex ratio and size imbalance that could prevent successful breeding.” The DLNR has since adopted rules that allow it to regulate the harvest of crustaceans.

House Bill 1018 allows the DLNR to adopt rules for establishing a haul net permit for the use or possession of haul nets “including reasonable permit fees and provisions for revocation, suspension and denial of permit for non-compliance with the rules of laying net “.

Even though the department already has detailed rules on setting nets, the legislature stated in its commission report on HB 1018 that “the illegal and irresponsible use of setting nets continues with adverse effects on fishery resources. and protected species ”.

Bill 1023 creates a recreational marine fishing license requirement and fee for non-residents and prohibits non-residents from fishing, taking or catching marine animals without a license.

While Hawaii’s sea fishing opportunities “attract thousands of visitors each year,” the bill explains, “non-resident recreational fishermen benefit directly from the enjoyment of Hawaii’s marine fisheries resources without directly contributing to the development of the fishery. management of these resources ”.

Other signed bills detail requirements for valid commercial vessel licenses, establish special license plate fees for motor vehicles to support environmental conservation, clarify enforcement duties for conservation officers, and Resources of the DLNR and authorize the Land and Natural Resources Council to adopt, modify and temporarily repeal “certain rules relating to natural resources” if the BLNR deems it necessary to meet “rapidly changing” resource conditions.

Governor Ige’s bill signing featured many supporters of ocean-related bills via Zoom. Screenshot

Seven of the nine bills – with the exception of the shark and license plate bills – were part of the administration’s 2021 legislative package.

Ige described the ocean as Hawaii’s link “to our food, our culture, our entertainment, our business and, most importantly, to each other.”

The governor tied the new laws to the state’s Holomua: Marine 30 × 30 initiative to effectively manage the state’s nearshore waters. It establishes 30% of coastal waters as a network of marine management areas for the benefit of fisheries and ecosystem resilience by 2030.

Case, who attended the signing of the bill, described some of the bills as “long needed” and “state of the art.”

“It’s a big day for the ocean,” she said, adding that the legislature “has really moved the needle.”

Other lawmakers credited with moving the bills forward are Senators Lorraine Inouye and Chris Lee, and Representative David Tarnas.

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