Trophy fishing fears have risen after the tiger shark was filmed being dragged to shore at Bunker Bay

Footage of a tiger shark snagged and dragged on shore at a Western Australian tourist hotspot has sparked calls for shark fishing to be restricted at busy bathing beaches.

The shark was caught and appeared to be released with the hook and part of the fishing line still lodged in its mouth in Bunker Bay on Wednesday afternoon as dozens of people watched.

It is not illegal to fish for tiger sharks off WA beaches if there are no local government restrictions.

But Dunsborough surfer Blair Ranford, who was at the beach, said it was neither the right time nor the right place.

“It’s not catching a small shark for dinner,” he said.

“They’re scooping up bait with a kayak, literally right in front of the [Pullman] resort.

“Unfortunately, this is not a one-time event – it happens often.”

Dunsborough surfer Blair Ranford says there should be no shark fishing on busy beaches.(ABC Southwest WA: Ellie Honeybone)

Mr Ranford said the incident put other bathers at risk – the area was teeming with school holiday tourists and those enjoying back-to-back long weekends.

“There was a girl in the water swimming and I saw her come out and got a bit of a shocked look on her face that there was someone catching a shark right where she was swimming” , did he declare.

“I know most of the locals here, if you ask them, don’t want that to happen on their beaches where they surf, where they swim, where their kids are.”

A shark warning sign on a beach in Western Australia.
There are plenty of sharks in SW WA.(ABC Southwest WA: Ellie Honeybone)

Mr Ranford said using large baits could have unintended consequences.

“It’s inevitable that we have sharks in the ocean, but we don’t want to bait them to stay in the area,” he said.

Sharks of all types are common in Bunker Bay.

Kyle Burden was killed when he was attacked by a shark while bodyboarding in Bunker Bay in 2011.

Phil Mummert was bitten by a 5m great white while surfing at the beach in 2020.

A man is lying in a hospital bed having a "let go" sign with one of his hands.
Phil Mummert was bitten by a shark while surfing in Bunker Bay in 2020.(Facebook: Mish Wright)

A prior incident results in a ban

The footage comes two months after the WA government decided to restrict shark fishing on populated beaches near Fremantle.

The problem was highlighted when the ABC revealed footage of a tiger shark being dragged back across the sand at Port Beach, alive, bleeding and just feet away from swimmers.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, up and down arrows for volume.
Shark fishing has been seen on this Perth beach, triggering restrictions on activity there

Fisheries Minister Don Punch said the ban on line traces for fishing gear, primarily used for shark fishing, could be extended to other beaches if local governments request it.

The question was raised again after a dead tiger shark was found near Busselton Jetty.

A local diver discovered it on the ocean floor with shark fishing gear still attached.

A dead tiger shark.
A dead tiger shark was found at Busselton Pier in February with fishing gear still attached.(Provided: Aaron Goodhew)

Recfishwest said anglers need to be aware of what they are doing.

“We encourage all anglers to think about when and where they choose to fish for sharks.”

The spokesman said fishermen had enjoyed safely fishing sharks from various parts of the coast for generations.

A man in a suit looks at the camera with a serious expression.
Fisheries Minister Don Punch said people fishing for sharks need to be aware of their surroundings so they don’t put anyone else at risk.(ABC News: Glyn Jones)

Minister reluctant to intervene

Mr Punch said he wanted to see people make sensible decisions on public beaches.

“I don’t want to come in and just enforce rules and regulations – I want people to use common sense and act with respect towards other beach users,” he said.

“I would ask swimmers to ensure they are not in an environment where there is a shark and recreational anglers have a responsibility to fish responsibly and recognize other users of our shoreline.”

But Mr Ranford said something had to be done to reduce the risk.

“It just doesn’t increase beach safety,” he said.

“This is a targeted trophy hunt for the biggest, baddest shark these guys can catch and they do on some of our most popular beaches.”

People sit on the sand of a beach on a bright day.
Bunker Bay is one of WA’s most popular tourist beaches.(ABC Southwest WA: Ellie Honeybone)

The town of Busselton said it hopes recreational fishermen will exercise some common sense during busy holiday periods, but the council does not plan to push for formal restrictions to be put in place at Bunker Bay.

In a statement, Busselton Mayor Grant Henley said his council had written to the state government asking it to consider putting in place fishing restrictions around the busy Busselton Jetty area.

He also called on the government to consider a statewide approach to shore-based shark fishing.

Leave a Comment