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Grey Nurse Shark COUNTS AND photos are needed for Jan/Feb 2015 - please!!!


The GNS Watch team needs divers to volunteer as site custodians to count and photograph grey nurse sharks in January and February at aggregation sites off the Qld and NSW Coast.

Site custodians that successfully carry out and upload their survey and photo details to our website will be in the running to win some great prizes including prizes provided by Sea World

1)    A Tropical Reef Snorkel where you will "Get up close and personal with an array of amazing marine life in your own Tropical Reef Snorkel adventure in Sea World's Reef lagoon.  

2)    A VIP MAGIC PASS "Get 3 parks for 1 price with the VIP Magic Pass and visit Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World and Wet'n'Wild Gold Coast as many times as you like valid from 1 July 2015 until 30 June 2016".


In summary:

Dedicate one or more dives to count and take side on photographs of as many GNS as possible during January/February at any site in Qld or NSW where GNS may occur and upload your survey data and photos to our website!

In detail:

1. Become a Reef Check Australia member and tick the box stating that you wish to participate in the Grey Nurse Shark Program (its free).

2. If possible nominate as a site custodian and select the site/s and survey period for which you hope to survey GNS (in this instance Jan/Feb 2015). NB. If you are already a member you can click on the 'edit details' button and complete your nomination under the Grey Nurse Shark Watch section within edit details. NB. This step is not compulsory but helps the GNSW team to seek coverage at key aggregation sites not yet nominated.

3. Peruse the GNS Watch methods manual (particularly pages: 8, 10, 11 & 12). NB. You must be a GNS Watch member and login to view our methods manual.

4. Carry out a visual count and photo-identification survey of GNS (i.e. dedicate one or more dives to counting and taking side on photographs of as many grey nurse sharks as possible during on of our annual January/February and July/August scheduled survey periods at any site in Qld or NSW where GNS may occur; as per the GNSW methods manual)

5. Enter your survey data and upload your GNS images via the 'lodge a survey form' on the GNSW website

Don't forget that a nil report (a completed survey where no sharks were observed/photographed) is still an important and valid survey.

 For more information please register at Grey Nurse Shark Watch or email the GNS Watch team ( or

What is Grey Nurse Shark Watch?

Grey Nurse Shark Watch is a community grey nurse shark photographic identification monitoring program. It is designed to capture data on grey nurse shark numbers, movements and distribution during different stages of their life cycle throughout their range in both the NSW and QLD marine regions. It will do this by monitoring individual grey nurse sharks identified by their unique spot patterns over time.

Photographs submitted by you will contribute to a national database on the grey nurse shark, which will be made available to stakeholders, researchers and managers. Public access to data will also be facilitated, to allow contributors to see their own sightings, and those of others.

The photographic identification monitoring program is designed to monitor the recovery of the Australian east coast population of grey nurse sharks and to assist in the identification of critical areas for sharks in different stages of their life cycle. This program aims to ultimately lead to the improved conservation of this important species.

Having been hunted almost to the point of extinction in the 1950s, the Australian east coast population of grey nurse shark is listed as Critically Endangered under the and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Critical information about the grey nurse shark is still unknown and is needed to help ensure the population is not at risk of further decline. You can help to monitor this species, and contribute to its ultimate recovery.






The Australian Government's Caring for our Country has provided funds for GNSW in 2014!

We are proud to announce that GNSW has received funding from the Australian Government's Caring for our Country, Community Environment Grant Program for 2014.

The importance of a long-term data set that enables population trends to be obtained and monitored has been highlighted in the 2013 draft National Grey Nurse Shark Recovery Plan: 

The GNSW team once again needs site custodians for the fast approaching January/February 2014 scheduled survey period. Site custodians are needed for all aggregation sites along the Qld and NSW coast to help meet this high priority recovery plan action.

For more information please read the 'How you can help' section below or email the GNSW team.

 Site Custodian GNSW visual and photo-identification surveys 

 Being a site custodian involves diving at your grey nurse shark site during the survey period to count the number of sharks present, photograph as many sharks as possible then submit this information through an easy to use form on the Reef Check Australia website.

  • Establish a cost-effective, non-invasive, long-term monitoring program to keep check on GNS numbers and the stability of this Critically Endangered east coast population.
  • Provide an annual scientifically valid, robust estimate for the east coast GNS population.
  • Enhance our understanding of many key aspects of the population including site fidelity and occupancy, migration patterns, and interactions with fishing gear.
  • Increase public awareness about GNS and to provide good data for management purposes via an open and transparent mechanism that involves interested parties.

Photographs, submitted by you, will contribute to a national GNS database that will be made available to stakeholders, researchers and managers. The photo-library can also be viewed and queried by Reef Check Australia members who select to participate in the GNSW program.

How can you help?

Opportunistic encounters: Are you a diver or fisher who occasionally encounters grey nurse sharks? If you have a good quality side photo of any of these sharks, you can submit your sighting and/or photographs on line at any time during the year using a simple on-line form. Please sign up as a member to be able to submit your data and photos.

Site Custodian scheduled surveys: Are you a regular diver-photographer who would like to become a site custodian? Can you commit to a more intense survey at your favourite local site/s between January/February and/or July/August? If so, nominate yourself as a site custodian before the first scheduled survey period. First sign up as a member by providing your details, then indicate your nominated site and season. Already a member? Login and then edit your member details to become a GNSW and/or nominate yourself as a site custodian.

More details, including the GNSW Methods Guide, how to record your grey nurse shark sightings and upload your images and how to become a site custodian are available on the Grey Nurse Shark Watch Database. Please sign up as a member to view these details.

Annual scheduled surveys:

Survey 1: January/February

Survey 2: July/August

Find us on Facebook to stay up to date with the latest news and events!




NEW Grey Nurse Shark Watch Video

Wolf Rock, just south of Fraser Island, is a very special site for Grey Nurse Sharks (GNS) on the east coast of Australia. In Spring, male and female GNS gather at Wolf Rock for breeding. As GNS do not have hands to give gentle caresses during romantic moments, they hold each other with their teeth! This is why some of the GNS you see in this beautiful footage by Pure Underwater Imaging have open wounds and scars - it's a sign they've been contributing to the next generation of this Critically Endangered population.

After the mating season, the male GNS leave Wolf Rock allowing the pregnant females to rest together there in peace for their 9-12 month gestation before pupping in New South Wales waters. See if you can spot the pregnant female in the footage - she is the one looking particularly round!

Wolf Rock is a popular recreational scuba diving site where divers can come up close and personal with the GNS year-round. You can see for yourself in the footage how placid these gentle giants are; despite their toothy grins they are harmless to scuba divers.

As Wolf Rock is so important to GNS, we'd love to see your sighting and photographs from this site - you can submit them via Grey Nurse Shark Watch. Approximately half the pregnant female population aggregate at Wolf Rock each year; where the other half go remains a mystery and is a critical gap in our knowledge of this iconic species. If you have seen any GNS at an unusual site, your sighting could help us with the Missing in Action project.


Have you seen this shark?

GNS Watch is actively seeking information about an injured Grey Nurse Shark that has been sighted in NSW waters.

The image above was taken in July 2006 (image courtesy of Carley Bansemer), recently the shark has been sighted at Julian Rocks, NSW with a more pronounced jaw injury and a rope around her tail. If you have reporting or images of this shark, please contact The Project Team

Please read the update from April 14, 2012 for additional details.



Grey Nurse Shark Watch at the Grey Nurse Shark Symposium 21 September 2013

Grey Nurse Shark Watch at the Grey Nurse Shark Symposium 21 September 2013

The GNSW team (plus a few very keen volunteers) recently attended the Inaugural Grey Nurse Shark Symposium hosted by Fauna and Flora International Australia and funded by the Burnett Mary Regional Group. 

The overarching theme and aim for the day was to work smarter and more collaboratively with all stakeholders to facilitate the recovery of the Australian east coast population.

The draft 2013 National Recovery Plan for the grey nurse shark (to replace the 2002 plan) has just been released for public comment. A presentation on the objectives and actions of the new plan helped to facilitate discussions for the day. The day consisted of workshop sessions and a range of presentations by the GNSW team, researchers, managers, conservation organisations (NGOs) and stakeholder representatives such as recreational fishers and free divers.

The most important research aim put forward by the group with unanimous support was the collection of data to provide population trends so that the recovery/stability or further decline of the population can be determined and the success of any protection measures known. 

A primary outcome was for a GNS Alliance/Steering Committee to firstly provide a group submission to the Commonwealth on the draft recovery plan, secondly as a ‘discussion like forum' and check point for progress of actions of the new recovery plan once approved and thirdly as requested by the GNSW team a group to seek opinions, advice and requests for GNSW.

Grey Nurse Shark Watch in the News

Coming soon!

  • Project updates and reports
  • Shark identification--Identify YOUR GNS from the photos and match them to existing sharks or identify them as a new shark!

For more information, please contact The Project Team

If you experience technical difficulties, please contact Support.

Meet the Project Team

Sue Sargent is managing the Grey Nurse Shark Research and Community Engagement Program (GNSRCEP) on behalf of Fauna & Flora International as well as coordinating actions between partners and taking a lead with partnership development, funding applications and communication. Sue is also a marine biologist, diver and an advocate for community participation in coastal and marine research. Sue has been working with grey nurse sharks since 1992 and supporting grey nurse shark conservation in Queensland from 2005.

Dr Carley Bansemer is the research coordinator for the GNSRCEP and has been involved in GNS research and management since 2000. She completed her PhD at the University of Queensland (UQ) in 2009 under Professor Mike Bennett on the "Population biology, distribution, movement patterns and conservation requirements of the Grey Nurse Shark". Working for the Queensland Government (focusing mostly on marine park management) since 1998 she is dedicated to forging stronger links between research and conservation management. Dr Bansemer and Professor Bennett have published several peer reviewed scientific papers and reports on the east coast GNS population that led to the acceptance of photo-identification as a robust and effective method to monitor the GNS population status and trends. Carley is passionate about research and monitoring relevant to GNS management being continued through a publically available, independent community based photo-identification program that is scientifically robust and cost efficient. Photos taken by Carley and provided to her by the diving community led to a photographic catalogue of nearly 1000 individually identified GNS that forms the base library for the GNSW program to build upon. Dr Bansemer and Professor Bennett are also supervising PhD candidate Deborah Bowden who they hope will lead them closer to identifying where the ‘missing' 50 % of mature females (that do not reside at Wolf Rock during most of their pregnancy) congregate. This challenging quest is the other core research focus of the GNSRCEP known as ‘Missing in Action'.

 Deborah Bowden completed her Bachelor of Marine Studies in 2003 after spending her Honours year investigating the reproductive biology and behaviours of the grey nurse shark. Since that time, Deb has remained passionate about the conservation of the grey nurse shark and active in research on this iconic species which led her to enrol in her PhD at the University of Queensland in 2011. Deb contributed to development of the Grey Nurse Shark Watch program and continues to be involved by spreading the word about the program at events and visits to dive shops and clubs. As part of her PhD, Deb hopes to investigate the effectiveness of the Grey Nurse Shark Watch methodology through comparison to researcher conducted surveys. Deb's primary involvement in the Grey Nurse Shark Research and Community Engagement Program is delivering the Missing in Action project as part of her PhD studies through the generous support of Project Partners.


Missing in Action (MIA)

Missing in Action is a research project being undertaken by the University of Queensland (and partners) that complements the Grey Nurse Shark Watch Project.

As a part of this project, the research team aim to:

1) Identify potential aggregation sites for pregnant Grey Nurse Sharks through analysis of available data (satellite imagery, anecdotal sightings and captures, and habitat similarity to other known aggregation sites) and remote sensing.

2) Conduct field verification, mapping and deploy listening stations at potential aggregation sites.

3) Attach temporary acoustic and pop-up archival satellite tags to a number of female GNS (with mating scars) to identify potential migration routes and additional gestation sites for pregnant GNS. For this part of the project, the partners are also working with the CSIRO to trial a new timed tether release.

For more information, please see the Fact Sheet, login to members or contact The Project Team

Project support...

This project is currently supported by Fauna & Flora International Australia through funding from the Australian Government's Caring for our Country, Reef Check Australia and the University of Queensland.

Past support for this project was generously provided by Australian Capital Equity and the Ronald Geoffrey Arnott Foundation (managed by Perpetual), the Burnett Mary Regional Group for Natural Resource Management Ltd.Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing and the University of Queensland

Reef Check Australia is the host of the Grey Nurse Shark Watch website and database, and is also helping to promote opportunities for community engagement in the project.

For more information please contact The Project Team