This viral picture of what appears to be a giant tiger shark has been making the rounds on the internet recently, but conflicting stories differ on how big it is or even where it was caught. What is known is that the shark was caught recently somewhere off the coast of New South Wales, and that it has stirred up quite a bit of attention.
The photo was first posted online by Facebook users and eventually shared by a group in Byron Bay called Positive Change for Marine Life, which sought to identify the angler. Some observers were critical of the catch, while others defended the harvest. The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI), which is responsible for enforcing fishing regulations, said the catch was legal but did not specify details.
“DPI is not investigating this incident, as no illegal activity has occurred,” a spokesperson told The Sydney Morning Herald.
At least one angler has come forward to claim the catch, identifying himself only as “Matthew” to The Northern Star. According to the commercial fisherman, the tiger shark was caught a few miles off the Tweed Coast when he was fighting another, smaller hammerhead.
“I was fighting the Hammerhead and he came up and swallowed it,” Matthew said. “You can’t turn around and go no, don’t touch, to something like that.”
Having lost the hammerhead, the angler decided to reel in the tiger shark instead. The angler said the fish measured about 13 feet long but did not give an estimate on its weight. Thirteen feet is an impressive size for a tiger shark, but not among the biggest. Tiger sharks regularly grow to near 16 feet in length and Matthew himself added that he has seen specimens over the 20 foot mark off the Tweed Coast. Still, 13 feet is a healthy size for an adult tiger shark and as seen in the photos, Matthew’s catch has significant bulk that makes it seem even larger.
The sharks on Australia’s eastern coast are a contentious subject that involves animal advocacy groups, fishermen, and even surfers. A spree of recent shark-related attacks on beachgoers have to led to calls from surfers to hold another shark cull, especially after the gruesome death of Tadashi Nakahara earlier this year. Officials received reports of at least 11 other shark-related attacks on the eastern coast so far in 2015. Animal rights activists argue against a cull due to concerns that endangered sharks like the great white will be put in harm’s way.
Australian officials say there are currently no plans for a cull near the North Coast beaches, but may consider employing shark-repelling methods.
Image from Facebook