Shark Fishing

Nowadays, the news reports the frequent shark attacks happening in Hawaii beaches. But did you know that the ancient Hawaiians hunted sharks and revered them as gods?

Hawaiian shark hunters had to execute their hunting perfectly as one mistake could mean instant death. The New York Sun details their methods of capturing sharks including capturing them with hooks and nets, spearing the sharks, tying sleeping sharks with nooses, and luring sharks to shore. Would you believe that human flesh was once used for bait?

Since ancient Hawaii, people hunted sharks in Hawaii. In the first quarter of the 1900s, people were catching and selling sharks.

Kids usually make money selling lemonade, mowing the lawn, or washing cars. But boys at Waimea, Kauai, fished for baby sharks and sold them to Chinese customers who enjoyed shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy. Reportedly, the boys were making a lot of money, and a boy even caught twelve sharks per hour in a day.Because the boys were focused on catching sharks, the Evening Bulletin says, “the indifference with which they treat the snapping fish when they land them is strange to see.”

Shark can also be used to make shark oil, a nutritional supplement, so Capt. F. D. Walker at Kawaihae decided to produce it as an alternative to cod liver oil and create a large industry in Hawaii. He claimed to know the only known process for deodorizing shark’s oil.

Thus, the Kawaihae Oil Works & Fertilizer Company was born. On a sampan (Chinese-style boat), fishermen catch sharks, using goats and turtles as bait. The company was planning to also create fertilizer by drying the shark’s meat.

Shark skin can also substitute leather, and Waterman Walter Macfarlane planned to launch a shark skin industry in Hawaii through his tuna cannery company. Fishermen fished for sharks on the ocean near Johnson Island.

People also hunted sharks as a sport. Some would fish with fishing rods from the shore. Others would perform kite fishing, in which a bait is suspended in the air by an attached reel line and kite.

– Alice Kim


“Stories of Hawaii Nei: Daring of Skilled Divers of the Deep”
The Hawaiian gazette, September 2, 1902, Image 7

“Youthful Shark Fishermen Do Well”
Evening bulletin, July 20, 1909, Page 7

“Commercial Shark Fishing Is Latest Hawaiian Industry”
The Hawaiian gazette, June 21, 1910, Page 3

“The Shark-Fishers at Kawaihae Are Expecting Big Returns”
The Hawaiian star, September 30, 1911, Page 6

“Shark Skin Industry To Be Launched by Walter Macfarlane”
The Hawaiian gazette, January 25, 1918, Page 8

“Shark Fishing from Shore Is Latest Sporting Stunt”
Honolulu star-bulletin, July 24, 1915, Page 15l, Image 23

“Hawaii Leads in Game Fish Says Fred K. Burnham: Noted Sportsman Gives Big Boost for Sport in Hawaii to Mainland Press”
Honolulu star-bulletin, March 29, 1916, SPORTS, CLASSIFIED AND SHIPPING SECTION, Page 10


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