Shark Fishing Now Mostly Banned in Hawaii

Shark swimming near the decomposing carcass of a sperm whale. Photo via Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources.

Shark fishing is now banned in Hawaii.

A bill passed in the 2021 session of the Hawaii State Legislature to ban shark fishing took effect on Jan. 1. House Bill 553 makes it illegal to knowingly capture, entangle or kill a shark in state marine waters. The new law applies to all shark species found in Hawaiian waters.

“Our department is well aware of how important sharks are to maintain healthy marine ecosystems,” state Division of Aquatic Resources Administrator Brian Neilson said. “And we recognize their importance for native Hawaiian cultural practices and beliefs.”

The new law does not apply to:

  • People with special-activity permits issued by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR);
  • Shark fishing for public safety purposes as authorized or conducted by DLNR;
  • Sharks taken outside of state marine waters, with required documentation;
  • Sharks captured, entangled, or killed for self-defense or the defense of another, and
  • Sharks captured or killed according to a permit issued by DLNR.
  • Neilson pointed out that the state still has work to do before the law is fully implemented. According to the statute, the DLNR may adopt administrative rules to implement the new law including, but not limited to:
  • Ensuring that the incidental capture and release of sharks while targeting other species is not a violation;
  • Preventing the wanton waste of sharks, and
  • Limiting gear, such as gill nets, in areas identified as shark-nursery habitats.
  • The DLNR has said that it would soon begin the public process to implement the law, including establishment of a non-commercial permit for the take of sharks.

According to the new law, the conditions of the permit “shall include native Hawaiian cultural protocol, size and species restrictions and a prohibition on species listed as endangered or threatened.”

DLNR is recommending that anglers avoid fishing in areas known to be frequented by sharks, especially pupping areas, and use barbless circle hooks.

“If a shark is caught accidentally from a boat, avoid bringing it onto the vessel whenever possible in order to release it, but rather cut the line as close to the shark’s mouth as can be safely done,” the agency said in a news release.

Violation of the new law will be a misdemeanor. The penalties include $500 for a first offense, $2,000 for a second offense, and $10,000 for a third or subsequent offense; or a civil fine not exceeding $10,000 per offense.

Other potential penalties include an administrative fine of no more than $10,000 for each shark captured or entangled, whether alive or dead; seizure of any captured sharks, including any of its parts or products; confiscation of commercial marine licenses, vessels or fishing equipment; and assessment of administrative fees and costs, and attorney’s fees and costs.