- The 48-year-old man has been charged with one count of theft
- The accused reportedly kept using the tag for over a month
- He left the animal back in the water after removing the tag
A 48-year-old man in Australia has ended up behind bars for allegedly stealing a monitoring tag from a great white shark he accidentally caught.
The man kept using the tag for over a month, intentionally triggering several hoax shark warnings.
The accused, hailing from Albany, pulled off the monitoring tag on the shark before releasing the animal back into the water. The acoustic tag was fitted to the shark by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development as part of a monitoring program, Perth Now reported.
Authorities said the accused allegedly used the tag to trigger network receivers in local waters seven times between Aug. 13 and Sept. 4. A police search was initiated, following which the tag was found from a property in West Australia's great southern region on Oct. 1. It is unclear as to why the man allegedly set off the warning signals.
Albany police said the man has been charged with one count of stealing. The police officer-in-charge, Senior Sergeant Hugh Letessier, told The West Australian (paywall) that the alleged behavior was "irresponsible" and caused "unnecessary fear."
"It leaves an untagged white shark that we know is in waters off Albany. Also, the false alarm causes unnecessary fear to residents and people using the water," Sen. Sgt Letessier said.
The accused is set to appear before the Albany magistrate's court on Nov. 4.
According to reports, as many as 34 acoustic receivers were fitted on sharks across the Western Australia regions. The tag emits its own unique low-frequency "clicks" that are picked up by the receivers. These real-time alerts are then relayed to the public via SharkSmart and Surf Life Saving to people swimming in the area. Since the start of the program, 115 sharks, including great whites sized up to 4.1 meters, have been tagged.
Recently, a massive great white shark was tagged off the coast of Western Australia, which was recorded by authorities as the second-biggest in the state's history. The 5.3 m female was just 10 cm short of the record. "It's very rare to have such a big white shark so close to the metropolitan area," 9 News quoted Peter Godfrey from the Department of Fisheries.