shark-white-tipped.jpgHawaii is standing up for sharks, and in a big way. Despite pressure from a vocal Asian community that insists on eating shark fin soup, the Hawaii legislature passed a bill that would prohibit the possession, sale, or distribution of shark fins of any kind anywhere within the state as of July 1st, 2010.

The governor is expected to sign the bill, which drew praise from Native Hawaiians whose culture reveres sharks as guardian spirits in animal form.

The measure could put a small dent in the total number of sharks killed each year for their fins — some 89 million globally, according to the Associated Press.

”Shark finning is a disgusting practice,” wrote Christie Wilcox, a Honolulu marine scientist. “Most often, sharks are stripped of their fins while they’re still alive, and dropped back into the ocean.”

“As if it’s not bad enough that it’s cruel and wasteful, sharks populations have plummeted dramatically in the last fifty years, and practices like finning only exacerbate what is already a glaring ecological problem.”

The Hawaii Senate is mulling over S. 850 (The Shark Conservation Act of 2009), currently on the Senate floor. S. 850 would require that sharks be landed with their fins still attached, solving enforcement issues and closing a loophole on the transfer of fins at sea, according to Wilcox’s ScienceBlog. The bill also allows the U.S. to take actions against countries that have weaker protections for sharks.

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