Shark Attack Australia
Researchers examine and dissect a Great White Shark that washed up on Goosewing Beach in Little Compton, Rhode Island September 1, 2012. Reuters/Scott Eisen

In an unusual move to protect sharks in Great Barrier Reef, WWF Australia has made a $100,000 purchase of shark net licence. The move aimed at removing the licence from circulation. Had the license fell in wrong hands, it would have allowed the owner to drag a 1.2km net, included in the licence, anywhere along the reef to target sharks and other species.

WWF Australia’s purchase of the shark net licence would protect the predators in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and beyond. Conservation director Gilly Llewellyn said that authorities are going to take the net out of water and ensure “it doesn’t go fishing.”

“Hammerhead sharks are literally getting hammered out there. We have a chance to ... help save some of those sharks. This will also prevent dugongs, turtles and dolphins being killed as by-catch, and help the reef heal after the worst coral bleaching in its history,” Llewellyn told the ABC.

She added that the purchase of the licence was a shot across the bow to the Australian Government and management authorities “that we believe they should be protected.” According to Llewellyn, listing certain types of hammerheads as endangered species is urgently required. The Federal Government is also reportedly considering listing the hammerheads.

The licence purchase came after commercial shark catching nearly doubled over the past few years. It went up from 222 tonnes in 2014 to 402 tonnes in 2015, Queensland Government figures revealed. Llewellyn equated the figures to 100,000 sharks last year.

However, questions have been raised as to the effectiveness of the purchase and whether it would make a difference. The licence has not been used since 2004. Mario Fazio, a net fisher in the region, called WWF Australia’s purchase a “PR stunt” and a “part of the political cycle.”

“Someone could buy it tomorrow and go fishing with it in a couple of months' time and it could be catching sharks again,” Llewellyn said, explaining the importance of the purchase.