Federal and State governments fishing for compromise on shark fin laws

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - We've learned state leaders are trying to convince the federal government not to supersede Hawaii's ban on shark fins.

Both the federal and state governments agree shark finning is bad but do state and federal laws interfere with each other in terms of shark fin bans?

This week the federal government reached an agreement with California, Washington and Maryland over their shark fin laws. So what about Hawaii?

"I would say it's not a matter of tough, it's a matter of different," said Mike Tosatto, NOAA Pacific Islands Regional Office Administrator.

Hawaii law bans possession, sale, distribution or trade of any shark fin. However federal law allows legal fisherman to land shark fins as long as they are still attached to the body.

"The federal law sees that there is some shark species that are harvested sustainably and can be landed for their economic value. On the mainland there are major shark fisheries that do employ fisherman and provide food for people," said Tosatto.

"As far as I'm concerned it's all about profit over a sustainable planet," said State Senator Clayton Hee, (D) Judiciary Committee Chair who spearheaded Hawaii's shark fin ban.

There have been ongoing discussions although at times it appears both sides are miles apart.

"I'm hopeful Hawaii will prevail. At the bottom of all of this is greed. There is really nothing more. It certainly isn't a sustainable planet and I would challenge anybody to suggest that preempting Hawaii law is to make a healthier planet because it's simply not true," said Sen. Hee.

Animal advocates are also weighing in and are buying ads in Washington DC urging decision makers not to water down state laws.

"We want the agency to side with sharks and not shark finners because really the only people that benefit from rolling back these state bans are the finners themselves," said Dominique Cano-Stocco, Oceana Campaign Director. "We think that their legal arguments on the issue of Federal preemption is wrong."

The Hawaii Attorney General's office is preparing the state's response. A lot could hinge on interpretation of the laws because state law doesn't mention anything about attached fins.

"A review is being conducted of the final language agreeing on an interpretation between federal and state laws concerning shark finning. DLNR is not ready to comment with specificity," said Deborah Ward, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Information Specialist, in a written response.

"I am optimistic we can reach an agreement with the state of Hawaii," said Tosatto.

Both sides are fishing for a solution but haven't reeled in an agreement.

To be clear either way shark fin soup will not be back on menus in Hawaii. That would still be banned and is not an issue on the bargaining table.

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