A planned clamp down on shark trophy-hunting at Monkey Mia, aimed at protecting the area's famed dolphin population, is in doubt because the local council's jurisdiction does not cover the local marine park.
Trophy hunters using blood, burley and large baits to lure in sharks have been blamed for a spate of brutal attacks on dolphins at Monkey Mia, which are famous for their close interaction with tourists.
Tourism operators say an industry worth $30 million is under threat, with a heightened risk to dolphins and tourists in the water.
Local tour operator Leon Deschamps told ABC Radio Perth the number of shark fishers had increased dramatically in recent years.
"It's been an exponential explosion in this activity in the area," Mr Deschamps said.
"These guys, the trophy hunters, are doing it in areas where people swim, and not just people."
He said it was common sense that luring sharks to the area would result in attacks on dolphins and even humans.
"You don't have to be a scientist to realise that luring in large sharks to an area where five or six of our main dolphins bring their babies, and interact with thousands of our guests isn't a good idea," Mr Deschamps said.
"It's a major economic issue and it's a major safety issue."
Instagram fuelling popularity
Mr Deschamps said the explosion of shark trophy hunters to the area had been fuelled by social media posts.
"This is about ego, pure and simple," Mr Deschamps said.
"Some of these guys are now getting commercial sponsorship for dragging these sharks up onto the beach so they can get a thousand Instagram likes … It's unfortunately the way of the world at the moment.
"There are responsible shark fishers out there … plenty of blokes are happy to catch a shark for a feed of flake and we don't have an issue with that."
Images have emerged on social media allegedly showing injuries sustained by trophy hunters as they try to reel large sharks onto the beach.
At a meeting on Wednesday night, the Shark Bay Shire raised the idea of changing local laws to ban the practice, following in the footsteps of a number of WA councils, including Cottesloe and Geraldton.
But the Shire revealed its ability to enforce by-laws would be significantly limited, because its jurisdiction extended only to areas reserved or managed by the council.
Shire president Cheryl Cowell told ABC Breakfast the World Heritage listed Shark Bay Marine Park made up the majority of the waters in the area.
"Even though we have 15,000 kilometres of coastline within the whole area, most of that is included within reserves, so generally it's not anything our local laws could have any jurisdiction over," he said.
Minister seeking advice
Ms Cowell said it was down to the State Government to make any changes to eradicate the practice.
She said a number of councillors had made various representations to ministers to ask for a ban on chumming and a size limit on recreational shark fishing, but were yet to hear anything back.
"We haven't heard back from any of the ministers, and we will certainly be escalating our campaign now from a shire perspective," she said.
Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said he was aware of the concerns being raised by the Shark Bay community.
"I have received a number of letters from community members and groups that are concerned with some fishermen attracting large sharks to beaches for the purpose of trophy hunting," he said in a statement.
"I am concerned for the safety of other beach users and I've sought advice from my department."