Man steals white shark monitoring tag, sets off fake warning alarms

An Australian man is due to appear in court after allegedly taking a location tag off of a shark and setting off fake warnings.A stock photo shows a great white shark in Mexican waters. In some areas, sharks are fitted with trackers for public safety.

Police reportedly said the Western Australian man, 48, removed the tag from the great white shark after accidentally catching the animal before releasing it. In a statement to Guardian Australia on Monday, Western Australia police said the man has been charged with stealing and is due to appear in court on November 4.

The shark tag is known as an acoustic device. It sends off a signal that can be detected by buoys in the water that then relay a warning to authorities. In May, the government of Western Australia announced an extra 5 million Australian dollars (about $3.7 million) to fund shark hazard mitigation, including targeted shark tagging.

It said the targeted shark tagging program had already been “highly effective” with 51 white sharks captured and released since 2019.

“WA’s evidence-based approach to shark hazard mitigation has seen us implement one of the strongest mitigation programs in the world, ensuring people can continue to enjoy our beaches and ocean with confidence,” said Fisheries Minister Don Punch at the time of the funding announcement.

He said the boost for monitoring and increased tagging “will ensure we’re better informed than ever on the movement and whereabouts of white sharks.” In December 2020, authorities tagged one of the biggest sharks ever recorded in the state of Western Australia.

The shark, a great white, measured 5.3 meters (about 17 feet) and fell just 10cm short of the all-time record, according to 9News. The decision to tag and release the shark was made after it was spotted swimming close to one of the most popular beaches in Perth, Western Australia’s largest city.

Shark tags and detection buoys are not exclusive to Australia. Earlier this year Massachusetts news outlet Boston 25 News documented the release of shark buoys near the town of Marshfield. Mike DiMeo, Marshfield harbormaster, told the news outlet that the most cause for alarm was that the same sharks were migrating back to the area every year.

Earlier this year, a great white shark measuring over 13 feet long and weighing over 1,400 pounds was detected via a tracker off the coast of New Jersey as it headed northwards along the eastern U.S. coast. It had been fitted with a tracking device and was known to researchers.

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