Kent Williams, the owner of New Fishall Bait Company, looks into the mouth of a 600kg mako shark at the company's headquarters in Gardena, California. Jason Johnston of Texas caught the potentially record-setting shark off Huntington Beach on Monday, the Orange County Register reported.

Huntington Beach, California - A huge mako shark caught off the coast of California could set a record, but a critic said it should have been released because sharks are threatened worldwide.

Jason Johnston caught the 600kg shark on Monday after a two-and-a-half-hour battle, the Orange County Register reported.

“I’ve hunted lions and brown bears, but I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Johnston told the newspaper. “It felt like I had a one-ton diesel truck at the end of the line, and it wasn't budging.”

If the catch is confirmed and meets conditions, it would exceed the record mako catch made in 2001 off Massachusetts, said Jack Vitek, world records co-ordinator for the International Game Fish Association.

The shark should have been released, argued David McGuire, director of the California-based protection advocacy group Shark Stewards.

“People should be viewing these sharks as wonderful animals that are important to the ocean and admiring how beautiful they are”, rather than “spilling their blood and guts”, McGuire told the Times.

Only 23 of the 6 850 world records on file with the game association involve fish topping 600kg, Vitek said. The largest catch was a 1 200kg great white shark that was taken in 1959 off the Australian coast.

The shark was being kept on ice and will be donated to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association for research.

Johnston came to California to film a game-hunting television programme for the Outdoor Channel.

Johnston defended the catch.

“There are not that many sharks being taken out of the water,” Johnston told the Times. “It's not hurting the population. If we pull four fish out of the water per year, that's just four.” - Sapa-AP