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  • Writer's pictureHawai'i House Democrats

Hawai'i Enacts Landmark Shark Protection Act on World Oceans Day

Honolulu, Hawaiʻi - Today, as the planet celebrates the United Nations second annual World Oceans Day, Governor David Ige signed House Bill 553; Relating to Shark Protection, into law, making Hawaiʻi a marine sanctuary for the more than 40 species of sharks that frequent state waters.

The bill, introduced by Representative Nicole Lowen (House District 6 - Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, Honokohau), and championed in the Senate by Senator Mike Gabbard (Senate District 20 - Kapolei, Makakilo, and portions of ‘Ewa, Kalaeloa, and Waipahu), prohibits the intentional or knowing capture, killing or entanglement of any shark in state waters, bringing an end to shark trophy hunting charters, the take of baby sharks for the aquarium pet trade and the intentional killing or mutilation of sharks for their teeth, jaws or other parts. The bill does not criminalize the accidental capture and release of a shark if incidentally captured while lawfully fishing for other species. The bill also allows for the states' continued issuance of research, education and special activity permits.

In 2010, Hawaiʻi enacted the nations first anti-finning and shark fin sales ban, setting off a global initiative with 13 U.S. states and territories following Hawaiʻi's lead. Data has shown that Hawaiʻi's shark fin sales ban bill spared the lives of tens of thousands of sharks from cruel finning since its enactment, however, that measure didn't explicitly apply to the capture or killing of whole sharks, as HB553 does.

"We thank Governor Ige for signing this important bill into law. Sharks are key apex predators who are critical to our oceans health and resiliency, especially in light of growing negative impacts from climate change," said Representative Lowen.

"Mano (shark), are not only important to our reef and ocean ecosystems, but are sacred ʻaumakua (ancestral guardians) of many Native Hawaiians. It is time we extend our Aloha to these guardians of the sea and afford them the protections they so need and deserve," said Senator Gabbard.

Research has shown that reef shark population abundance has declined by upwards of 90 percent around the main Hawaiian Islands. Globally, 71 percent of shark species are facing potential extinction.

The bill, which becomes law on January 1, 2022, had tremendous support from local marine protection and native Hawaiian organizations including For the Fishes, Mālama Manō, Pono Advocacy, the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter and the Hawaiʻi Reef and Ocean Coalition, and by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Department of Land and Natural Resources.

For more information on World Oceans Day visit:

For more information on Hawaiʻi sharks visit:


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