A fisherman who caught a 4m tiger shark on a hand-line near Albany will not be penalised, Fisheries WA says.
Brendon Hilder was interviewed by the department earlier this week after images and video of him pulling in the shark at Shelley Beach, in the state’s south, were published.
Tiger sharks with an interdorsal fin length of 70cm, which usually equates to a total animal length of 1.8 to two metres, are protected in Western Australia and penalties include a fine of up to $5000.
In a statement, a Fisheries compliance officer said Mr Hilder was not aware that his catch was a tiger shark and no further action was necessary.
“The decision was made on the ground that during an interview and upon review of video it has been found that the fisher was not apparently aware that he had caught a tiger shark,” it said.
“It was only when he pulled it in to shallow waters he became aware, at which point he called for a knife to cut if free.”
Fisherman ‘did the right thing’
Editor of recreational fishing magazine Western Angler, Scott Coghlan, told ABC Great Southern that tiger sharks were added to the protected species list some years ago due to concerns about the way they were treated in game-fishing competitions.
“There was a kerfuffle over game-fishing competitions – killing tiger sharks and stringing them up in the gantry to be weighed and then dumping the sharks without using the flesh for any useful purpose, which you can understand didn’t go all that well,” he said.
Obviously he’s pulled the shark up onto the beach, he’s had a couple of photos taken by the looks of things and he’s rolled it back into the water, so he has released it.Scott Coghlan, editor Western Angler
“So tiger sharks then got added to the list of species that you have to release over that 1.8-to-two-metre length.”
Mr Coghlan said Mr Hilder had done the right thing in releasing the shark.
“The Fisheries Act states that you have to release the fish or the shark as soon as you’re aware that it’s a protected species and with the minimum amount of handling and the least amount of distress to the animal,” he said.
“Obviously he’s pulled the shark up onto the beach, he’s had a couple of photos taken by the looks of things and he’s rolled it back into the water, so he has released it.
“So the actual spirit of the reason the law was brought in and the reason tiger sharks were added to it was to stop people killing them and stringing them up and then just dumping the remains, now he certainly hasn’t done that and it seems to me that it possibly needs to be looked at.”
Mr Coghlan said it may be time to review the legislation.
“It’s nearly 20 years old and times have probably changed a bit,” he said.
“I’d hate to think that a guy who’s out there having fun with his family, catching some fish, throws out a salmon head on a line to try and catch a shark, catches a shark, rolls it back in the water, I’d hate to think that he’d actually be fined or charged with anything for doing so, that would seem a bit crazy.
“I think commonsense should prevail, obviously Fisheries have to be seen to be doing something and I think a warning is more than sufficient and this subject will get more publicity now that people are more aware of the rules.”