WA Shark Cull Protesters May Face Penalty for Removing Bait

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By Reissa Su | January 28, 2014 8:00 PM EST

After Western Australia killed its first shark on Australia Day due to its shark culling policy, protesters began removing bait from drum lines placed around the south-west coast.

According to local reports, the dead shark was identified as a female tiger shark, measuring 10 feet or three metres-long. The tiger shark was caught on the shark lines installed around Western Australia's coast. The shark was killed off Meelup Beach, near Dunsborough.

Western Australian government spokesperson Simon Beaumont said a fisherman who was tasked to patrol the drum lines shot the shark and dumped the dead body in the sea. Local paper reports claimed the shark was shot four times in the head at close range.

The fisherman who was contracted to watch the drum lines said the shark had to be removed because it was a threat to public safety. The unnamed fisherman told reporters he will continue to shoot sharks caught in the lines and hopes in the future some samples can be taken as a contribution to knowledge.

Protesters had stayed away from his boat while he was manning the shark lines. He was glad that he "managed to get the rounds right."

West Australians for Shark Conservation President Ross Weir declared shooting a shark was inhumane. Around 22 shark cull activists were watching the fisherman as they removed bait from the lines to prevent sharks from being caught in the lines.

Mr Weir remarked that the fisherman's rifle was not appropriate and he had no experience in handling sharks.

Jeff Hansen, managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia, remarked that shark culling is a "cruel and painful death" for any shark. The shark caught in the lines would have been stuck there for hours. Mr Hansen questioned Australia's opposition to Japan killing whales and dolphins since it is in contrast with its stance in favour of shark culling.

Western Australia previously declared that sharks longer than 10 feet or 3 meters will be captured and treated as a threat. The Great White, tiger and bull sharks caught on the lines will be killed "humanely."

Penalty for removing bait from lines

Meanwhile, the Australian Marine Conservation Society does not approve of protesters removing bait from drum lines. Member Pam Allen said protesters should not resort to illegal activities to stop shark culling. Ms Allen said her organisation promotes peaceful protests and writing to government officials concerned to express dissatisfaction.

Australia's Fisheries Minister Ken Baston said authorities have been informed of reports that baits were removed and those who were prosecuted will face penalties under the Fisheries Resource Management Act. Groups may be fined $50,000 while individuals have to pay $25,000 plus 1 year in jail for interfering with fisheries' gear. 

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