A 9-foot great white shark swam outside the wings of a lampara net in June set behind the 45-foot F/V Five Star 1 in the Monterey Bay off the shores of Santa Cruz, Calif. Captain Vinh Pham, 41, of San Jose, picked up his .22 caliber rifle and fired multiple shots at the shark, killing it.
Six months later Pham pleaded guilty in Santa Cruz County Superior Court to multiple charges that included wanton waste of a white shark, possessing a loaded rifle in a vehicle, possessing an undersized halibut, among other infractions regarding landings and receipts. Upon conviction Jan. 17, Pham was fined $5,000, placed on two year conditional probation and had his rifle destroyed.

It’s a poorly kept secret in the fishing industry that some fishermen shoot and kill marine mammals, sharks and other predators that vie for their catch. But there’s little deterrent to the small number of bad actors given convictions are rare.
“It’s safe to say (shooting marine animals) happens on a regular basis,” said Capt. Todd Tognazzini, with the law enforcement division of California Fish and Wildlife. “But I’ve been at this 35 years and I only know of a handful of convictions.”
Tognazzini notes that it wasn’t the killing of the great white shark that got Pham in trouble, it was the wanton disregard of its remains. Under California law there is an allowable incidental take of sharks even as they are listed as protected species.
The 9-foot shark washed up on Beer Can Beach outside Santa Cruz on June 17. Fish and Wildlife law enforcement received a call on an anonymous tip line that someone aboard the F/V Five Star 1 had fired on the shark. Law enforcement observed Pham’s boat near where the shark had washed up and contacted him when he came ashore in the Santa Cruz Harbor. The California Department of Justice crime lab matched the .22 caliber bullets found in the sharks head to the rifle that belonged to Pham.

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Nick Rahaim is a writer and commercial fisherman based in Monterey, Calif. Check out his website,, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @nrahaim.

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