AFMA accused of whale shark cover up

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A REPORT tonight on the ABC revealed The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has been accused of covering up details surrounding the Geelong Star’s capture of a whale shark.

Allegations emerged last week that embattled super trawler, the Geelong Star, had captured a whale shark off Bermagui.

An AFMA spokeswoman responded by saying: "The whale shark ran into the outside of the net, and two fins had to be freed ... it wasn't inside the net, but got snagged on the outside.”

According to the ABC news report, AFMA has now confirmed the whale shark was lifted from the water for three and a half minutes before being released.

Environment Tasmania spokeswoman Rebecca Hubbard told the ABC AFMA had "specifically downplayed the level and intensity of the interaction with that protected species".

"We're very concerned that they're misleading the public and that we can't trust the reports that are coming from the fisheries management authority."

In a statement AFMA said it had reviewed video footage from the Geelong Star which showed that the whale shark spent no more than four minutes out of the water.

"That is, the time from the animal being brought onto the boat, freed and being released back into the water was estimated to be 3min 35sec,” said the statement.

Rebecca Hubbard said Environment Tasmania wanted the Federal Government to step in.

"I think the unravelling of this entire story... demonstrates that AFMA is actually putting the corporate interests of the fishing company ahead of the wellbeing of our protected species and certainly ahead of the concerns of the Australian public,” she told the ABC.

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