Tiger shark killed off Meelup Beach in Western Australia
A tiger shark similar to the one pictured was killed off the coast in Western Australia as part of the state government's controversial culling policyReuters

An endangered shark has been killed off the western coast of Australia, to the shock of environmentalists worldwide.

The three-metre (10ft) creature, believed to be a female tiger shark, was caught off Meelup Beach near Dunsborough, south of Perth.

It was shot in the head four times by a fisherman - contracted by the government to patrol the lines off beaches in Perth - before he dumped the carcass off Cape Naturaliste.

It is the first killing under the state's controversial culling policy, which was approved last week in a bid to reduce the number of attacks on humans.

The cull allows baited drum lines with hooks to be set 1km (0.62 miles) off popular beaches in Perth and the South West to catch great white, tiger and bull sharks until the end of April.

Following six deaths in the past two years, local marine experts have declared the area the deadliest in the world for shark attacks.

But the cull has come under fire from environmentalists, who claim there is no evidence it will reduce the number of attacks.

They say it could even increase the danger by giving beach users a false sense of security.

Piers Verstegen, director of The Conservation Council of Western Australia, said: "This is just going to increase the level of public opposition to the shark cull when people see images and hear stories of these sharks being culled.

"It is certainly a sad day for our marine life and for thousands of people opposed to killing endangered sharks."

Western Australia state premier Colin Barnett told The Western Australian: "I respect and acknowledge that people have different points of view and there are protesters, but my responsibility as Premier is the safety of beachgoers.

"I get no pleasure at seeing sharks killed but I have an overriding responsibility to protect the people of Western Australia and that's what I'm doing."

He added: "When you have sharks of three, four, five metres long of known aggressive varieties, swimming in the water very close to beach goers, that is imminent danger and reluctantly I have had to take that decision."