LIHUE — An Anahola woman was fined $250 last week and ordered to turn over jewelry made from illegal whale ivory she was caught trying to sell at a local farmer’s market.
Vivian Satow, 73, pleaded no contest to one count of wildlife trafficking, a misdemeanor, in Fifth Circuit Court on Dec. 3, according to a Kauai County press release on Monday.
Satow spoke with The Garden Island and said the investigation basically consisted of two officers who came to her booth, posing as regular shoppers, looking to buy a gift for a relative.
Satow said she had a slice of an old whale tooth among the jewelry she had displayed for sale. When the officers inquired about it, she pulled out the tooth it was cut from, a piece she said she bought about 20 years ago and carries with her only for educational purposes.
“I would take it out for the children,” she said. “And the children would be in awe of seeing something like that.”
The news release said county prosecutors brought charges against Satow after a joint investigation by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revealed she attempted to sell pieces of jewelry she knew contained illegal whale ivory at a farmer’s market in Anahola on May 15.
“This is the first conviction for whale bone in Hawaii under the new wildlife trafficking statute that took effect on July 1, 2017,” Kauai County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said in the press release. “It shows that Kauai is on the forefront of environmental justice and we are grateful to our partners in DLNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife for their diligence in this shared mission to protect our wildlife from illegal trade practices.”
According to Satow, she is not the only jewelry vendor on Kauai to be charged for ivory trafficking in recent months, but she said government officials are targeting the wrong people for the wrong reasons.
“I’m a 73-year-old woman, you know, barely surviving,” she said. “They’re extracting money from the artists who are creating something beautiful from a tragic situation.”
Satow said government resources directed at cracking down on small-time jewelry vendors and artists like herself would be better spent investigating the large-scale impact big industry and technology are having on whales and their environment.
“It’s for the purpose of making money. They’re not saving the whales,” she said. “I don’t see one penny being spent to save the whales by the very system that’s destroying them.”