When the environmental group Ocean Defender found out a gift shop in Hawaii was selling dead baby sharks as souvenirs, it made it its mission to stop the “disturbing” practice.
Nani Aloha Street Store in Waikiki had been marketing the preserved sharks to tourists using ancient Hawaiian mythology. A short description underneath the jars read, in part, “In Hawaiian mythology, the shark is believed to be an ‘Aumakua, or ancestral guardian who watches over and protects a person and their family.”
“I was horrified,” Ocean Defender’s founder, Oriana Kalama, told Hawaii News Now, “and I was infuriated at the fact that they had used our cultural traditions, they had used our aumakua, as a way to make more money.”
(The baby sharks in the Waikiki store appear to be Atlantic Sharpnose sharks, which are not endangered and not native to Hawaiian waters. It is not clear if the store was violating state laws that prohibit possession of shark fins.)
Kalama posted an article on Ocean Defender’s website calling for public complaints and boycotts, and within days, the outrage had picked up such momentum that the store capitulated.
The store’s website now features a letter apologizing to customers and noting that they have stopped selling “the product of issue.”
But the war isn’t over for Ocean Defender. Several Facebook commenters noted that they’d seen the same jars sold in other parts of Hawaii, in California, and on EBay. Kalama is now looking to go after the manufacturers.
“We are very very confident that we will stop this sale of bottled baby sharks very soon,” Ocean Defender’s Facebook page said. “It is completely unnecessary and promotes thoughtlessness and arrogance and stupidity.”