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No More Shark's Fin Soup

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Hawaii Island , Kauai , Maui , Oahu
Jul 01, 2011

Scratch shark’s fin soup off the menu.

It was bound to happen. Either the restaurants would run out of shark fins themselves, because certain shark species are near extinction. Or our society would wake up and say, “No more.”

The latter happened.

A year ago, then Governor Linda Lingle signed a bill into law that made the possession, sale, trade or distribution of sharks and shark parts—that is, fins—illegal.

State Senator Clayton Hee introduced the bill. He told Hawaii News Now that science indicates 70 million sharks are killed annually for their fins.

The killing of sharks for their fins is gruesome, often compared to the slaughtering of elephants for their tusks. In fact, the shark isn’t necessarily killed. Its death is a by-product of its fin being cut off. Once the fin is sliced, the shark is released back to the sea to perish.

“People think there is a limitless supply, and that’s not true,” said Hee. “People think sharks are bad animals, mean animals. That’s not true.”

Some people—Hawaiians, in particular—believe the spirits of their ancestors reside in nature. That could very well be the shark. Stories about Pele arriving in Hawaii guided by a shark are common. A few years ago, when I spoke with Uncle Charlie Kauluwehi Maxwell on Maui, he told me his family aumakua is the shark. This close tie with nature engenders a great respect for it. Many people in Hawaii get upset when an animal known to be aumakua—something like a guardian spirit—is killed. It’s a serious offense.

Beliefs vary around the world, though.

Shark’s fin is considered a delicacy by many Chinese. It’s served in soups and as fillets in gravy. Many Chinese believe shark fins are an aphrodisiac and provide health benefits.

Analysts predict that world’s population will top the 7 billion mark by the end of October. 7 billion people. That’s one big footprint—carbon or otherwise—that we leave on this place we call home, Earth, and it’s important to take good care of our home.

Biologists say sharks are being over-fished. The new law, it’s hoped, will prevent the extinction of various shark species and help keep the apex predator contributing to the web of life.

Last year, Hawaii was the first state in the nation to establish a shark protection law. Since then, according to Hawaii News Now, Guam, the Northern Marianas Islands and Washington State have followed suit, and California and Oregon might not be far behind.

Maybe next time I dive Tunnels, I really will see a shark.

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