Bottled shark souvenirs creating controversy

Visitors to Hawaii are always looking to bring back something that reminds them of their trip to the islands.

It’s even better when you find what you believe is unique to Hawaiian culture.

But a souvenir that was once sold at the Nani Aloha Street shop on Kalakaua Avenue is more than just an item of curiosity. If you look closely, that is a shark preserved in a bottle.

Store manager Ken Li says an employee stocked several bottles on the store shelf without his permission.

“What kind of sharks? Did he tell you?” KHON2 asked.

“Baby shark, baby tiger shark,” Li said.

“Baby tiger shark?” KHON2 asked.

“Yeah,” Li said.

When the bottled sharks were sold there, each went for a little less than $25.

But a picture provided by the Marine Protection Group Ocean Defender shows a sign displayed with the bottles, stating that the shark is believed to be an aumakua, or ancestral Hawaiian god, who watches over and protects a person and their family.

KHON2 came across the distributor who supplied the bottled sharks, Rainbow Crafts in Mapunapuna.

Owner Donald Yim says the items originated in Florida and he has supplied them for years to shops in Waikiki. He now claims that will stop.

“Let me be done with this and it will be discontinued,” Yim said.

At the State Capitol, lawmakers are considering a measure that would make it illegal to capture, harm, or kill any species of shark caught in marine waters in Hawaii. But here’s the question, what if the shark is imported to the islands, bottled, and sold as a souvenir or as a good luck charm?

Sen. Clayton Hee led the fight to ban shark finning.

“If you possess a shark, or any part of a shark, you are in violation of the law,” said Sen. Hee, (D) Judiciary & Labor Committee Chairman. “To market a shark for profit in the name of Hawaiian culture, that’s very, a very offensive and insensitive activity to engage in for profit.”

At Nani Aloha Street, the bottled sharks are gone.

Groups like Ocean Defender want to stop the sales not just here, but anywhere they may be sold.

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