Conservationists are investigating the possibility that a gigantic, four-metre tiger shark was caught off the NSW coast this week by commercial fisherman.
Byron Bay-based conservation group Positive Change for Marine Life shared two images of the dead shark on its Facebook site on Tuesday, asking if anyone had more information on how and where the animal was caught.
Spokesman Karl Goodsell told Fairfax Media that several sources had told him the shark was caught off Nine Mile Beach, on the Tweed Coast, in the past few days.
However, a spokesman for the Department of Primary Industries said it could not confirm when or where the shark was caught.
Commercial shark fishing is not illegal in large parts of the ocean off NSW and Queensland.
"DPI is not investigating this incident, as no illegal activity has occurred," a spokesman said.
The frightening photos show the shark lying on what appears to be the deck of a commercial fishing vessel, with several cuts and blood seeping out of its massive jaw.
The DPI spokesman said the shark appeared to have been captured by a long-line and it looked to be about four metres long.
"This size is not unusual for a tiger shark," he said.
The photo was initially posted by a Facebook user, Geoff Jones, who said he did not know its origins.
Another Facebook user, Nicholas X Morley, claimed he was given the image by "a mate that works in the fishing industry" who said it was caught three or four days ago, off Seven Mile Beach.
He said the fisherman handed its body to the CSIRO but a CSIRO spokesman said it had not been contacted about the shark.
Mr Goodsell said he had been able to positively identify the particular commercial fishing boat in the photos and confirm that it is a registered and licensed commercial shark fishing boat operating off northern NSW.
He said it was a legal catch, which highlighted the problem with commercial shark fishing in Australia.
"Fishermen between northern NSW and Cape York take around 78,000 to 100,000 sharks a year, some within the Great Barrier Reef and some of the species taken include ... critically endangered scalloped hammerhead and the protected great white."
"We don't see any point in pursuing the fisherman; it's not their fault for doing their jobs. The problem comes from the government who allow these fisheries to exist for protected and endangered species."
Several sharks have been menacing surfers and swimmers off the NSW North Coast in recent months, causing the closure of several beaches.
Surfer Tadashi Nakahara was mauled to death in February and 11 others have been attacked, including bodyboarder Matt Lee and surfer Craig Ison, who both remain in hospital with serious injuries.
At a community meeting on Monday night, almost 200 surfers voted for a partial cull of sharks following an unprecedented number of attacks and sightings.