Hawaiʻi Shark Finning Case Nets $100 Fine

December 6, 2013, 1:37 PM HST · Updated December 6, 2:14 PM
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A Maui couple sent in this photo of a shark sighted between 8:50 and 9 am. on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013 off of Halama Street in Kīhei. DLNR was notified and crews were sent out to patrol the area. Photo courtesy John and Courtney Swanson.

A Maui couple sent in this photo of a shark sighted on Aug. 8, 2013 in Kīhei. The South Maui area has become the focal point of shark discussion lately, with the most recent encounter reported to an area just south in Mākena.  File photo courtesy John and Courtney Swanson.

By Wendy Osher

A  fishing boat captain who pleaded guilty in federal court today to a charge relating to an attempt to sell shark fins to a Honolulu restaurant, was sentenced to a $100 fine, according to a US Department of Justice announcement.

Matthew Brian Case, 46, who was formerly based in Hawaiʻi as the captain of the long-line fishing vessel, “Hōkūau,” entered the guilty plea before US Magistrate Judge Kevin SC Chang, according to information produced in court and released by the District of Hawaiʻi US Attorney’s office.

Florence T. Nakakuni, United States Attorney for the District of Hawaiʻi, said that shark finning is prohibited under both the federal Lacey Act that protects wildlife, and the Federal Shark Conservation Act of 2010.

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According to the Department of Justice announcement, Case embarked on a month-long fishing trip in February 2013, during which he allegedly, “instructed his crew to engage in shark finning, which involved catching sharks, removing their fins aboard the vessel, and disposing of the carcasses in the ocean.”

The US Department of Justice further alleged that, “Case concealed approximately 100 shark fins in a hidden compartment in the vessel, and transported them back to Honolulu,” where he reportedly tried to sell them to a restaurant in the Ala Moana area.

According to Nakakuni, “Case thought the fins could be sold for approximately $600,” but the restaurant declined to buy them.

The government reportedly recommended the fine based on a number of factors including, “Case’s immediate and continued cooperation with authorities, lack of profit, and willingness to return from Mexico [where he now lives] to enter the plea,” according to the US Department of Justice.

In Hawaiʻi, sharks hold a special importance in part because of Hawaiian tradition, in which some sharks are considered ʻaumakua, family or personal gods, or deified ancestors.

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