Animal advocates celebrate historic shark fin ban - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Animal advocates celebrate historic shark fin ban

Posted: Updated:
State Senator Clayton Hee State Senator Clayton Hee
Peter Knights Peter Knights
Stefanie Brendl Stefanie Brendl
Kelly Hu Kelly Hu
Bob Nixon Bob Nixon

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

On July 1 Hawaii will become the first government in the world to ban the possession, distribution and sale of shark fins and it's already sending ripples to the rest of the world.

The law means restaurants won't be able to serve shark fin soup, but the impact goes well beyond what's on a Chinese food menu. 

From predator to protected, the new state law is aimed at preventing shark finning a process where fisherman slice the fins then throw the animal back into the ocean to die.

"As far as I'm concerned it's no different than killing an elephant for its tusks or dehorning a rhinoceros for its horn.  These are cruel and inhumane practices that have no business in a civilized world," said State Senator Clayton Hee, (D) Kahuku, Laie, Kaneohe.

State Senator Hee, along with many animal advocates, reeled in the votes to make it illegal to have shark fins.

"It has sent a message that it can get done," said Sen. Hee.

"This is the first in the world.  I don't how many times Hawaii has led the world but today it's leading the world and that's something to be proud of," said Peter Knights, WildAid Executive Director. "Today is a happy occasion and sharks don't get many happy occasions."

Already other states like California and even other countries are talking about similar legislation.  WildAid launched a campaign in China using superstar NBA player Yao Ming to get people to stop eating shark fin soup.

"Our slogan is when the buying stops the killing can to," said Knights.  "We had a big campaign to save the whales and that's fantastic. Whales are very important but sharks are more fundamental to the survival of our oceans, healthy oceans than whales probably ever will be."

"I think Hawaii proved you can do it. You just have to go one step at a time," said Stefanie Brendl, Shark Allies.

Local actress and Chinese American Kelly Hu grew up with shark fin soup as a delicacy but now she wants to change that image.

"I'm here to encourage other Asian Americans to help end the demand by talking, blogging and tweeting about this bill and encouraging their friends to support the bills in their areas prohibiting the sale and possession of shark fins as we have here," said Kelly Hu.  "The way to stop shark finning all together is to stop the demand for the product."

The issue is so big it caught the attention of filmmaker Bob Nixon who produced Gorillas in the Mist.  He's now filming a documentary called Mission Blue which is about the problems humans have created in the oceans and he flew in from the Gulf oil spill to film today's news conference.  Nixon plans to release the film early next year and says Hawaii's law will play a part because it's finally some good news to include.

"It's terrific to come here and celebrate this passage of this really landmark law which I think is going to get the attention of the world," said Nixon.

There is a one year grace period for restaurants to serve their existing inventory of shark fin soup.  However they have to get a permit from the state and they cannot bring in any new shark fins.

There is also an exemption in the law pertaining to education and collecting shark fins for research.

Tonight advocates are celebrating the law by having dinner at a Chinese restaurant that already agreed to stop serving the dish.

Copyright 2010 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.