Esperance shark killing penalties from Fisheries

A great white shark off the coast of Salisbury Island. Photo: Marc Payne.
A great white shark off the coast of Salisbury Island. Photo: Marc Payne.

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Fisheries have responded to an unconfirmed incident of vigilante shark killers taking matters into their own hands.

It was reported on Sunday that a group of local fisherman recently hooked a 3.5 metre great white shark.

The report stated that the group acted out of frustration against authorities’ not doing enough to protect beach goers following the fatal shark attack of a teenager in April.

Fisheries shark response unit spokesperson Tony Cappelluti said Fisheries were unable to provide any further details on the alleged incident.

“Fisheries is aware of an unconfirmed media report,” he said.

“At this point we are unable to confirm whether any offence has occurred or whether any penalties will apply.”

Mr Cappelluti said there were penalties under both State and Commonwealth legislation for intentionally killing a great white shark.

“In WA, white sharks are classed as a protected species under the Fish Resources Management Act,” he said.

“For the catch and kill of any protected fish species by an individual, in the case of a first offence, they face a fine up to $5,000 or for a second or subsequent offence, a fine of up to $10,000.

The Act also regulates that if the offence is dealt with in a court, the court is required to impose an additional mandatory penalty of 10 times the prescribed value of the protected species.

“For a white shark this is $500 and therefore the additional mandatory penalty would be 10 times $500 per shark, equaling $5,000 per shark,” Mr Cappelluti said.

“At all times, the circumstances of any offence is fully assessed to guide the prosecution process.”

Mr Cappelluti said water users could help each other by reporting all shark sightings to Water Police on 9442 8600. 

“This will ensure that SharkSmart and the Surf Life Saving WA Twitter service can alert the community and that beach managers can close beaches, if necessary,” he said.

Mr Cappelluti said the Fisheries division of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development was planning a tagging program in the Esperance area for later this year.

Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly weighed in on the matter yesterday during a visit to the region to discuss shark mitigation abalone sustainability.

“Whether any has done anything that they shouldn’t, that’ll be up to the fisheries to investigate,” he said.

“As Minister, I don’t get involved in that and it’s part of the way the government works. I’ll leave that to fisheries. 

“We are a very tourist orientated state and we want people to come to Western Australia and know that they can enjoy our beaches and they can do so in a reasonably safe environment, which is why we are doing everything we can.”

Local abalone diver and shark researcher Marc Payne was contacted about the incident, and altough he didn’t know the details, he said ocean users need to work within the law.

“The comm are asking for action and we really need to comm and have some trans with the department and obviously we have to work within legislation,” he said.

“This vigilante thing, obviously it’s out of frustration.

“Now we really need to sit down and come up with some really good mitigation strategies that the community are happy with.”