Community outrage over the death of hammerhead sharks sparks a $5,000 reward


There’s community outrage over the killing of nearly 100 baby hammerhead sharks.  A $5,000 reward is now being offered to help catch the person or persons responsible.

The state says this is the first time concerned groups have offered a reward for the taking of hammerhead sharks. It’s calling the incident tragic an unnecessary.

The hammerhead pups were dumped near the shoreline by the La Mariana Sailing Club at Keehi Boat harbor last week. The state says the sharks were likely trapped in illegal gill nets. Marine life advocates are outraged by how many were killed and how they were discarded.

“It’s really alarming that anyone could be so callous, not only in killing these animals but the way they were just pushed aside as waste,” said Inga Gibson, spokeswoman for the non-profit group For The Fishes.

The group pledged a $2,500 reward which was matched by another group called Moana Ohana. Experts say the sharks were probably no more than a month old and belonged to different litters.

“We’re not only losing those individual animals. We’re losing their reproductive output. We’re losing the potential for these sharks to replenish their populations that are, in some cases, severely depleted,” Gibson said.

Gill nets must be registered with the state and cannot be left unattended for more than 30 minutes. A former harbormaster says somebody out there must have seen what happened.

“To have that many hammerhead sharks, he would have to come in with a net that is loaded up with sharks, be right there on the beach taking the sharks out and throwing them on shore. Somebody must have seen that,” said Earl Omoto.

He says whoever did this must have used three to four nets which is also illegal.

“They would have had to have enough net to actually close out one channel, so they catch everything. High tide, they wait until the high tide moves the water in, then they’ll lay their net so when the low tide comes, everybody wants to come out. That’s when they catch everything,” Omoto said.

According to the DLNR, while this case was the first to be reported in this area; there have been a number of reports across the state where sharks appear to have been intentionally tortured or killed. 

“If a gill net was used, determining the method of use is important.” said DOCARE Enforcement Chief Robert Farrell. “If a gill net was used in the lay net fishing method, this would be illegal.  The use of a gill net in the lay net fishing method also requires registration of the net with the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources and the placement of registration tags on the net itself.  No matter the type of use, it is important for gill net fishers to inspect their net for unwanted catch, and to release them to ensure survival.  It appears that these shark pups were discarded, likely as unwanted catch.  If State Fishing Regulations had been followed, these deaths would have been prevented.  This was completely unnecessary, and contrary to ethical fishing in Hawaii.”

“The intentional death of any, let alone this many shark pups, in one incident is tragic and unnecessary. Responsible fishers who may accidentally catch a shark release them immediately. This is an act of cruel disregard for our sacred marine life.” said Inga Gibson of For the Fishes which offered the initial $2500 reward for this case. 

Hawaii is home to more than 40 species of sharks who are key animals to maintaining the health of ocean ecosystems. Many of these species are threatened or endangered, primarily due to over-fishing, the illegal use of certain types of gear, such as gill nets, and marine entanglement. Hawaii enacted the nation’s first and strongest shark finning and products ban in 2010 and continues legislative efforts to increase the penalties for intentionally killing sharks or rays in Hawaii waters.

Anyone with information about this case should call the statewide DOCARE hotline at 1-855-DLNR-TIP , 643-DLNR (3567) or report online via the free DLNRTip app.  All tips are anonymous and effectively assist conservation officers in investigating wildlife violations.

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