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Lawmakers Look to Ban All Shark Tour Dives

A move to ban shark tour dives in Hawaii has resurfaced following an attempt to launch an operation off Hawaii Kai. Residents are hoping lawmakers can provide answers.

Koko Marina management says it was never informed by tour operator Iolani Lewis of his intent to run a commercial business from his slip and immediately terminated his lease and ordered him to vacate the marina when news surfaced. Lewis announced Tuesday he would not go against the community’s wishes.

“I definitely agree with their concerns on that — and they have a right to their concerns,” said Lewis.

“He did the right thing he shot the white flag up and said look I’m a member of this community I don’t want to upset the community I want to be part of it,” said Rep. Gene Ward. “Thank you guys for being shark busters too you broke the start and that help unite the community.”

But residents say the fight isn’t over.

“Next week a new captain could come in with a boat and say we want to do the same thing,” said Ann Marie Kirk of the Ka Iwi Coalation.

It’s one reason community leaders are still holding hold a meeting Thursday night in Hawaii Kai. State law doesn’t allow shark feeding in Hawaiian waters but shark diving tours can be conducted in federal waters, three miles offshore.

“There seems to be a no-mans land if you will beyond three miles out,” said Ward.

And that’s where questions surface. According to federal law: It is unlawful to introduce, or attempt to introduce, food or any other substance into the water to attract sharks for any purpose other than to harvest – which means a business cannot chum waters three miles offshore to attract sharks unless it is fishing for them. Confused you’re not alone.

“We got to get on the same sheet of music as to what are the regulations what are the permits,” said Ward. “There is a restriction on shark feeding from three miles to 150 miles.”

A federal issue policed by the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The enforcement does become the issue,” said Rep. Lyla Berg.

And because of the lack of enforcement some lawmakers want to ban all shark diving tours closing all loopholes.

“The legislation we would like to propose introducing has to do with soliciting and advertising for shark tours, it has to do with feeding sharks if you will for commercial activity,” said Berg. “What we have to be very vigilant and deliberate is to determine whether or not this kind of business is what we want in Hawaii period.”

Lawmakers believe its too late to introduce new bills but Ward says it isn’t over until the gavel hits on May 7th.


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