THE CARROLL COX SHOW
NEWS AND COMMENTARY
SHARKFINS ARE STILL IN HAWAII
R.C. International, Inc., a local company situated at 410 Atkinson Drive, Honolulu, Hawaii, currently imports shark fins into the State of Hawaii. The fins are not attached to the body.
They lease a 1,600-square foot warehouse from the Hawaii State Department of Transportation, Harbors Division, near Pier 32. The Tax Map Key is 1-5-35-07P, Governor's Executive Order pending. The company's stated purpose is "storage and processing of seafood products." The effective date of the lease is February 1, 2001, and they pay the State $1000 per month. The owner of the import business is Mr. Calvin T.C. Wong.
The Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources states that it cannot enforce the current law which prohibits the import or landing of shark fins not attached to the body of the shark due to an existing "loophole" in the language of the current State laws. The definition of "land" or "landed" means when the shark or any part thereof is first brought to shore. Further, the shark fins are taken from waters outside of the State of Hawaii or it's territories, and first brought to shore in another country or territory. Therefore, the import practices being conducted by Mr. Wong are not illegal and the existing law cannot be enforced. This company, R.C. International, has reportedly brought in over 16 tons of shark fins at a time, per shipment. Of that, we know that at least three species of sharks are being imported in the containers. They are black tip, white tip, and blue shark. The shark fins are frozen and placed into large burlap Or synthetic bags.
Through our investigation, we learned that the unprocessed frozen shark fins are exported to Honolulu by NYC Inc., Utrikan Village, Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands, aboard Matson Container Ships. R.C. International routinely receives shipments of frozen shark fins from the Marshall Islands via refrigerated containers. These shipments have routinely received inspection by the United States Food and Drug Administration. The fins are processed at the R.C. International's facility in Honolulu. After receiving the fins, R.C. International thaws the fins, dries them out, grades them by species and size, trims the access meat from the fins, wraps them in cellophane bundles, and ships them out. Bundles can weigh 30-60 pounds each.
The shipments also include shark tails. An employee informed me that one recent shipment consisted of 11 tons and represented possibly 3,000 sharks. The average weight of the sharks was 40 lbs.
The bulk of the shipments brought in by R.C. International are shipped out to Hong Kong for processing. The importer claims that he ships approximately 10% of the fins to California, to the Pacific Seafood Trading Company in San Francisco.
The company also claims they receive some processed shark fin back. They also claim that some of the frozen shark fin, on occasion, comes in from Oriental Site, Limited, in Hong Kong, and is brought in by China Airlines.
R.C. International says the shark fins are by-catch of the commercial tuna fleets operating in the Marshall Islands. They do not order them. When the fishing boats fill a container they are notified that a container is on its way.
R.C. International's activity has been occurring for approximately 15 years. For example, one shipment in November, 2004, consisted of approximately 35,000 lbs. of fins. At that time, the approximate value was $6.00 lb, for a total amount of $207,000.
Allowing shark fins to come ashore in Hawaii lends itself to the possibility, and even encourages the importer to buy from a small number of local fishermen who still continue to unlawfully land shark fin without the shark.
This legislation will help protect sharks in United States waters, andwaters of other countries. Our Hawaii legislation does not provide protection to sharks outside State and U.S. waters. As a result, shipments of frozen shark fins from the Marshall Islands are routinely off-loaded here in Hawaii.