Geelong Star catches whale shark

A whale shark was snagged in a factory trawler net on the Far South Coast in the past few days. Authorities have denied the large creature died in the incident, but activists say they have received reports it did.

NOON:  The group known as Victorian Marine Animal Defence posted on its Facebook claims a whale shark had been killed off Bermagui.

The Small Pelagic Fishing Industry Association meanwhile in it’s own Facebook post countered the claims made on social media about the whale shark entrapment.

“Stop The Super Trawler has this morning stooped to new lows of deceit. The old greenie adage of 'say whatever it takes' is alive and well in Environment Tasmania,” the post reads.

“A false accusation was made on Stop the Trawler's facebook page this morning that the Geelong Star had killed a whale shark. This claim is false and malicious. 

“We immediately posted on the thread to confirm a whale shark had come alongside the net, the vessel manoeuvered away and the whale shark had swum off unharmed. 

“We posted the same to a question posed on this page by Stop the Super Trawler. Stop the Super Trawler chose to ignore our rebuttal, and comments provided by AFMA to Tasmanian media that no whale shark was harmed. And then posted this completely false and misleading image. This is the latest in a series of half truths and downright lies spread by this ethic-free organisation. Not great company for a politician wishing to protect their credibility Sarah Henderson MP. Stop the Super Trawler, if you have any ethics or credibility left, delete this post.”

Fairfax Media broke the story of a whale shark being encountered by fishing charters last week – click here – but it is unclear this was the same shark snared by the net.

Video of the whale shark shot from the Tru-Dee V

According to reports from game fishermen at the time, the shark was sighted in the same area near 12 Mile Reef off Bermagui. 

11.30am: Activists opposed to the Geelong Star’s presence in Far South Coast waters have asserted the whale shark died in the incident, understood to have taken place near Eden.

Fairfax Media has been sent a copy of an email sent by fisherman Graham Pike to AFMA demanding the release of video footage of the incident.

“Our sources are quite clear that the Geelong Star retrieved its net, with the whale shark still in it, and only when the net was on the deck, were attempts made to free the animal,” Mr Pike wrote.

“These attempts  included the use of the Geelong Star’s five-tonne crane to try to lift the whale shark out of the net.

“We are told that the crane could not lift the whale shark but that the animal, half dead by this stage, was further injured by the unsuccessful use of the crane.”

AFMA denies the creature died and said its observer aboard saw it swim away.

Footage taken off Bermagui by YouTube user: BigFishMad

11.15am: A whale shark's fins were caught in a factory trawler net on the Far South Coast in recent days, but authorities deny the large creature died in the incident.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Fisheries Management Authority confirmed on Wednesday, February 17 that an observer aboard the Geelong Star saw the whale shark swim free after being released, however contrary reports have since emerged from anti-trawler activist groups.

“AFMA can confirm that the Geelong Star had a non-fatal interaction with a whale shark on its last trip,” she said.

“The whale shark ran into the outside of the net and two fins had to be freed.

“It wasn’t inside the net but got snagged on the outside.

“The whale shark swam away without difficulty. There were no injuries, including any blood loss, observed.

“An AFMA observer was present during the release of the whale shark from the net and saw it swimming away.”

However, activist groups have asserted the whale shark later died. 

Meanwhile, AFMA has confirmed that seals were killed on the same trip; the vessel was recently banned for killing an albatross, but reinstated after AFMA said precautionary steps had been taken to prevent such incidents.

“AFMA can confirm that, on the Geelong Star’s last trip of the Small Pelagic Fishery, the vessel’s ninth, there were seal mortalities,” the spokeswoman said.

“In response to these mortalities, and as required by the Geelong Star’s Vessel Management Plan, AFMA has an initiated a review of the mitigation measures being used by the vessel. An AFMA officer also met the vessel in port on 15 February, 2016, as part of this review.”

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