A group of Australian anglers recently landed what could likely be a world-record tiger shark, but they have since gone to ground amid online condemnation of their catch.
An image of the tiger shark recently began circulating after it was posted on Facebook by Offshore Fishing NSW, depicting the three fishermen responsible for catching it standing astride its hanging body. The shark reportedly weighs some 625.5 kilograms, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, and was brought in using a seemingly inadequate 15 kilogram line.
— Blue Planet Society (@Seasaver) January 31, 2016
As numerous outlets, including the Daily Mail, have noted, the photo is somewhat innocuous, aside from the staggering size of the catch. Despite that subtle difference, the image resembles thousands of other sport-fishing trophy photos taken worldwide each year. In keeping with that tradition, it has attracted a fair share of congratulatory sentiment for the fishermen, as well as a number of detractors who question the need to kill such a large shark.
The men involved in the catch have gone silent, refusing to be identified in the media amid concerns over negative reaction to the viral photo. The Newcastle Herald reached out to the man responsible for landing the tiger shark, and he directed all inquiries to the Lake Macquarie Game Fishing Club. The club president failed to respond to them as well, and other fishermen spoke to the paper only on condition of anonymity.
“They just don’t want the heat,” one man noted. “The last thing anyone wants is for more marine parks or green spaces where we can’t fish. The guys are proud of the catch, but you won’t find them talking about the photograph publicly.”
— The Age (@theage) January 31, 2016
The anglers’ silence has made it all but impossible to establish exact details of the potential world-record catch. While it is known that the staggeringly large tiger shark was weighed on January 26 at Lake Macquarie, following the Australia Day catch off Swansea, it is unclear where precisely the animal was caught.
Lake Macquarie, located along the coast of New South Wales, has seen its fair share of shark interactions in recent years. Young great white sharks have repeatedly been documented there, at times feeding in areas normally used by swimmers. Last year, another juvenile white shark was filmed in the lake, rocketing from its surface in a successful attempt to free itself from an entangling line.
Along with white sharks and bull sharks, tigers are considered to be one of the three species most likely to pose a danger to humans. While they are easily capable of fatally injuring a person, attacks by tiger sharks are most commonly attributed to cases of mistaken identity. All three species have been noted in the region surrounding Lake Macquarie.
Tiger Shark, Tiger Beach, Bahamas by Michael Scott pic.twitter.com/IC6yHPcB9q
— Best Of Pict (@BestOfPict) January 22, 2016
As a state, New South Wales far outpaced the rest of Australia in terms of shark interactions over the last year. In 2015, a total of 22 unprovoked shark attacks were reported continent-wide, according to the Australian Shark Attack File, a project of the Taronga Zoo. Of that number, 14 of those incidents took place in New South Wales, including the year’s only fatality, thought to have been caused by a great white shark.
While the reaction to the potential world-record catch has been mixed, the anglers aren’t the only people to make headlines recently for catching an imposingly large tiger shark. Just two weeks ago, another group of Australian fishermen saw photos of their catch spread online, after they landed a 13.5-foot-long hammerhead shark and a similarly sized tiger shark. While those animals were caught near Carnarvon in Western Australia, they were also quickly returned to the sea by the duo responsible for bringing them ashore.