Western Australian man allegedly set off fake shark warnings with tag removed from great white

By Cait Kelly

A Western Australian man allegedly used a monitoring tag he removed from a great white shark to set off fake warnings in the Albany area for nearly a month.

The 48-year-old allegedly removed the tag from the shark after accidentally catching it and releasing it alive.

The acoustic tag, which had been fitted to the shark by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development as part of a monitoring program was found by police during a search at a property in WA’s great southern region on 1 October.

Between 13 August and 4 September the man allegedly used the tag to activate shark warnings in the area.

Albany police have charged the man with one count of stealing, they told Guardian Australia in a statement.

“WA police have charged a 48-year-old man with stealing in relation to the alleged stealing of an “acoustic monitor tag” used in the tracking of great white sharks by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD),” the statement read.

“The man is due to appear before the Albany magistrates court on 4 November 2021.”

Across Western Australia, there are 34 acoustic receivers for sharks that send real-time alerts which are relayed to the public via SharkSmart and Surf Life Saving when they are swimming in the area.

Since the program started, 115 sharks, including great whites sized up to 4.1 metres, have been tagged.

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The sharks are each fitted with a tag that emits its own unique low-frequency “clicks” that are picked up by the receivers.

On 13 August the Albany Advertiser reported that a great white shark had been detected by one of two receivers in the Albany area near Middleton beach at 4.46pm and again at 4.53pm.

On 4 September, a great white shark was again detected by the Ellen Cove receiver at 7.56am.

Albany police officer-in-charge Sen Sgt Hugh Letessier told the West Australian that the alleged behaviour was “irresponsible”.

“It leaves an untagged white shark that we know is in waters off Albany,” Letessier said.

“Also the false alarm causes unnecessary fear to residents and people using the water.”