HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Capturing, taking, abusing or killing a shark in Hawaii waters would be illegal, under a Senate bill quickly gaining support.
The measure also expands a ban on killing manta rays to all rays in state waters.
Senate Bill 489 has the support of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Humane Society, and a number of environmental groups.
Violators of the proposal would face fines of $500 for a first offense and $10,000 for a third offense.
The islands are already at the forefront of enacting protections for sharks, but some say more work is needed to safeguard the animals at a time when the health of the world’s oceans is in decline.
Sharks and rays “are long-living and slow-growing, start reproducing at an advanced age, and produce relatively few offspring per year,” the measure before lawmakers says.
“Protection for sharks and rays ultimately means healthier, more resilient oceans and reefs that are better able to withstand other pressures on the ocean ecosystem from climate change and pollution.”
There are about 40 different species of sharks in Hawaii waters, from tiger sharks to hammerheads.
In 2010, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to ban the sale of shark fins or fin products. Shark finning is also illegal in Hawaii waters.
Environmentalists say that sharks are apex predators ― at the top of the ocean food chain ― and so protecting them has broad benefits.
“Sharks are very misunderstood creatures who need protection now, more than ever, because of the decimation of their populations,” said environmental activist Ocean Ramsey, known for her frequent posts on social media that show her swimming with sharks.
Ramsey adds that too many sharks ― including hammerhead pups ― are being inadvertently killed by illegal nets and through longline fishing activities.
But several professional anglers have submitted testimony against the bill, saying that it doesn’t take into account accidental entanglements.