Commentary – Video of Shark Being Caught “Has Brought Shame To Our Island”

Recently, a video filmed at Honokohau Harbor has brought shame to our island. The video depicts some young people landing a large Tiger shark on the rocks at the harbor entrance. The tackle used is ropes tied to the land. This was neither fishing for food or sport-fishing where the animal is fought with a rod. It was simply disrespect.

Still shot from the video

Still shot from the video

The shark is an important part of the Hawaiian culture. For some, the shark is ‘aumakua. But for all, the shark was respected, not a plaything: “(In old Hawai’i, catching the niuhi was the game of the chiefs, a dangerous sport for which special techniques were developed, according to historian Mary Kawena Pukui. Eating niuhi flesh was also taboo to women.) []”

Today, sharks are globally threatened by the finning industry, which wastes the life of the shark for a few pounds of fin. Meanwhile, live sharks are an economic benefit to the dive industry. Shark dives bring in at least $125,000,000 per year globally and any Big Island dive operator can attest to the enthusiasm that’s generated even by a small reef shark.

Further, the sharks at Honokohau are well known to the community. Everyone knows Laverne, the largest resident female, but the shark in the video is Tony. (Tony survived: He was filmed by some divers two weeks after the video was shot.) You can see photos of Tony and the other tiger sharks of Honokohau at ([].

When the young men in the video returned the shark to the water, they were putting a large injured predator back into an area where dozens of people swim every day. Alua Beach, a popular place for families to bring keiki, is only a few hundred yards from where the shark was landed. There are multiple dive sites within a quarter mile to either side of the boat channel.

As with most regular divers at Honokohau, I’ve watched the sharks and the sharks have watched me. I’ve never forgotten that these are apex predators and need to be treated with respect (and watched from a distance). The sharks are there because it’s their natural territory and, probably, because of scraps from fisherman. There’s never been a shark attack reported at Honokohau.


Sharks are important and culturally respected by native Hawaiians; and – Sharks are not targeted by shore-fisherman for either sport or food; and – The area is frequented by swimmers, SCUBA divers, and free divers:

I would ask that the County of Hawai’i and/or DNLR to declare the area near the entrance of Honokohau Harbor as a “niuhi conservation zone” and forbid the intentional targeting by fisherman of large sharks within that area. The ban should forbid the use of hooks larger than those used for commonly-targeted sports and food fish and the use of anchored ropes or chains for fishing.

Larry O’Brien, Kailua-Kona


An Invitation From the Island of Keawenui: E NA PUA ALOHA HULA, E NA OLAPA ALOHA IA LAKA, E NA KANAKA ALOHA HAWAII, E HU A‘E! by Sage Takehiro & Moku O Keawe:

I credit a lot of my writing style to my kumu hula’s choreography: informative and aesthetic, graceful and fierce. My name is Sage Uilani Takehiro.  I have been invited to tell a story of a hula celebration from my perspective and I extend this invitation to all who would like to experience the 5th Annual Moku O Keawe International Festival.

When I reflect on my first experience of hula, I recall being eye level with rows of rope tucked into an off-white pa‘u that popped with every uwehe. I watched all parts of those bare feet press into the floor while Nalani Kanakaole yelled, “Point that toe!” I smelled the sweat of that old studio and the kinolau of a hula goddess that adorned a life-size black and white photo of her mother, Aunty Edith – her arm slightly extended, her pointer finger gently stretched out, her palms perfect like they could catch rainwater, her mouth open, lips curved at the corners. I wondered what story she was chanting, what words were captured in that moment – I wonder if she knew that I would wonder about her.

I make sure to always point my toes when I dance. The strange thing is, I cannot feel my feet. When Aunty Nalani’s hand spanks that ipu I change. I am not me, I don’t have drama, and I’m not concerned about where the next rager is, or what I’m going to wear. I am something else. At the sound of a gourd I become a Story.

When people ask me how I wrote my first book, I hesitate to spill the beans. That is, I pretend like I’m dancing. While my fingertips compose words on a page, my mind leaps in line – a procession of storytellers to my right and to my left, to my front, my back, and at the oblique reach of my imagination. Hula is the foundation for everything I present to the world. When I think of the word “hula,” I recall stories that ignite my insides. I become a fire blazing trails through literary landscapes.

Through all the words I could ever read or write no knowledge compares to that which ignites inside of us when we dance. When I was young we were told not to share the fire. The things we learned in hula were kapu, VIP only kine info that nobody can know or touch, only see when it’s time to perform. There is still the common filter that every Halau has, but now everybody celebrates the sharing of knowledge like Makahiki born-again. Awareness of Hawaiian knowledge grows at the national and global levels, but to know is to experience.

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The Moku O Keawe International Festival is a celebration of hula – the most organic form of Hawaiian storytelling – providing an appropriate time and place to bring different perspectives together to share and develop our knowledge expressed in the medium of performance arts.

At last November’s festival, it had been almost a decade since I danced in a line while Aunty Nalani yelled at me. We learned Aia I Olaa Kuu Aloha, a song by Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole that describes the feeling of desire, a song that calls out to a lover. We were rarely rewarded with auwana dances at Halau O Kekuhi, so to learn such a beautiful mele in the modern style of hula with Aunty’s kahiko-ish choreography was a refreshing treat.

Another workshop that I participated in last year celebrated the place Mahaiula. We learned a hula auwana from Kaleo Trinidad in the patio of a condemned house that Helen Desha Beamer once partied at when she was young like us. We went through each verse describing a procession of her huakai from sailing through Kona, arriving at Mahaiula, and having a grand old time all the way until the moon light made love with the morning star. I kissed the flowers that Beamer described at the front porch of the house. I ran my hand across the old bar that served spirits to her friends. I was inspired to persevere with my writing, so that one day the young people will dance our stories, and so that our stories may inspire theirs.

Each island has its own rich history, beautiful expression, and highly regarded ancestry. The genealogy of Keawenuiaumi is especially unique as his island actively gives birth to Kamaehu. Through offering the knowledge of this place, and inviting others to participate in this exchange, we celebrate creation, life, and the stories of our cultural procession…

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