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Was it an illegal catch of the day?
An investigation is under way to determine if a local fisherman knew he reeled in a great white shark. If so, he could face criminal charges. The fish are protected under California law.
The 5-foot great white was caught Monday off the Huntington Beach Pier. Video of the catch was posted on YouTube (warning: contains adult language). California Department of Fish and Game agents seized the carcass, after getting a tip.
A warden found the men in possession of the shark, but he thought it was a mako shark and he let the men go. A short time later, the warden realized it was a great white. He found the men at the nearby Newport Beach Pier, where the shark was seized, the Associated Press reported.
"The frozen shark is now in an evidence locker in Los Alamitos," said Paul Hamdorf, an assistant chief of law enforcement with the Department of Fish and Game.
The investigation is focusing on one person right now, but others are in the process of being interviewed, Hamdorf said. If officials determine that the shark was illegally caught, investigators will submit their evidence to the Orange County District Attorney office for possible prosecution.
It's a misdemeanor to catch or possess a great white shark. The maximum penalty is a $1,000 fine.
California law states fishers cannot catch white sharks, even with a sport fishing license. They are also off limits when it comes to commercial fishing operations.
However, white sharks are not protected all over the world. In some parts of the globe, "they have become a popular trophy fish with each bringing thousands of dollars for just their valuable fins and jaws alone," according to the Fish and Game website.
A similar case landed a Valley Village man in court earlier this year. Video showed the man dragging a 150-foot sea bass ashore near Balboa Pier after a boater used a hook to grab the fish.
Giant sea bass must be returned to the water, according to authorities. Both men pleaded guilty to an infraction.