Representative Karamatsu’s Testimony Regarding Niihau Shell Products

Below is my testimony before the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce regarding Niihau Shell Products:

Testimony of
Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu
H.B. 2569
Relating to Niihau Shell Products
Monday, February 9, 2004
3:00 p.m.
Conference Room 325

Good afternoon Chair Hiraki, Vice Chair Herkes, and members of the committee.

I am Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu, and I am testifying in favor of H.B. 2569, which prohibits items made of seashells from being labeled “Niihau” if not 100% made of Niihau shells and made within the State. I dream of seeing Hawaii as a global economic power with a strong and diversified economy. However, as we are moving ahead in solidifying our tourism and military industries, and promoting our knowledge based industries such as technology and science, we must include our native Hawaiians to be a part of this historical movement. This bill takes a small step towards that direction.

Specifically, H.B. 2569 would protect the Native Hawaiian Niihau shell product businesses on Niihau from other businesses using the term “Niihau” on their products when in fact their products (1) do not comprise of seashells harvested from the island of Niihau, its waters, or beaches and (2) are not fabricated, processed, or manufactured entirely within the State. In addition, this bill allows discussion on a percentage measure for non 100% Niihau shell products to be permitted to use the term “Niihau” and be labeled with a percentage component.

The Native Hawaiian Niihau shell product businesses on Niihau are known for their craftsmanship and choice of pristine shells. The policy behind this measure is to protect Hawaii businesses, especially native Hawaiian businesses from being taken advantage of by companies capitalizing on the term “Niihau” just as the term “Kona” was for coffee. After all, customers pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars for Niihau shell products. Hawaiian cultural products are becoming more and more popular in the global economy as Hawaii in itself is a brand name. Besides retail businesses, with e-commerce businesses on the Internet, the potential for abuse is even greater, if it has not already occurred.

Therefore, I support H.B. 2569 to help protect our Hawaii businesses, especially those owned by our Native Hawaiian brothers and sisters. Thank you Chair Hiraki, Vice Chair Herkes, and members of the committee for allowing me to testify.

With Warmest Aloha,

Jon Riki Karamatsu
State Representative, District 41

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