19 February 2016

There have been conflicting claims in the media this week of a whale shark interaction with the fishing vessel Geelong Star in the Small Pelagic Fishery, particularly the life status of the animal at the time of release.

As AFMA has reported to numerous media outlets, the evidence available to AFMA from our scientific observer onboard the Geelong Star is that on 11 February 2016, a whale shark ran into the outside of the net and became caught by two of its fins.

The whale shark was subsequently freed from the net and swam away without difficulty.  No injuries to the animal were observed.

As part of AFMA’s monitoring of the vessel, the vessel is required to install an AFMA-approved camera system and we are now in the process of downloading and reviewing the footage from the relevant trip to verify logbook reports including protected species interactions.  The camera system is in addition, and operates independently, to the AFMA observer and bycatch officer deployed on the vessel.

The recent interaction with the whale shark and all other protected species interactions in Commonwealth fisheries will be included in quarterly public reporting on AFMA’s website.  The next quarterly report will be published later this month.