Reef Check’s E-News
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.
Thank you to all our GNSW members who participated in the January/February 2013 Survey!
Irrespective of some horrible weather conditions our dedicated grey nurse shark site custodians still managed to conduct visual counts and photo-identification surveys at 17 sites across Queensland and New South Wales (5 in QLD and 12 in NSW) during our 2013 January/February survey period.
As expected for this time of year, in Queensland sharks were only observed at Wolf Rock. However, their numbers were strong with a minimum count of 24 mature females during a single dive in January.
In NSW, the numbers varied from no sharks up to at least 12 sharks at any site. These numbers are particularly low for the central NSW sites and are most probably a result of the weather and visibility making diving conditions less than ideal during the majority of the survey period rather than a decline in the number of sharks at this time.
The analysis is still underway (and we are still chasing a few surveys particularly for NSW), however one interesting photo match so far is that of a mature male photographed at Fish Rock on the 10 February by Tony Isaacson. The last time ‘Shark 110' was photographed was at Flat Rock in Queensland on 30 August and 1 September 2007.
As this shark has been photo-matched for both sides and has not yet received a name, Tony has been given the ‘naming rights' to this shark and has chosen the name: ‘Elliott'. Tony explains the meaning and significance behind his choice:
'Elliot is the first name and generational family name of my father who facilitated my enthusiasm to explore the wonders of the natural world. He took me as a young boy to the Unley Town Hall in South Australia to be inspired by and to meet a then youthful David Attenborough. Elliott is my middle name and the middle name of my son Kristen.'
Stay tuned for further results and please start considering your availability to continue your support for GNSW and become a site custodian for the fast approaching July/August 2013 survey period.
The next Site Custodian GNSW visual and photo-identification survey is scheduled for July/August 2013!
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.
Site Custodians help GNSW achieve its core aims:
- 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
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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 in the News
- South West News, Brisbane, SHARK GRANT PhD candidate Deb Bowden has won $6400 science grant (December 2012)
- ABC News, Researchers unlock grey nurse sharks secret breeding habits (December 2012)
- Gold Coast News, Search for shark breeding ground (December 2012)
- TEN News, NURSE SHARKS (December 2012)
- Channel 9 News, Grey nurse shark repopulation bid (December 2012)
- ABC Radio, The World Today interview with Dr Carley Bansemer (December 2012)
- Australian Diver becomes 100th shark watching volunteer (October 2012)
- ABC Radio Wide Bay interview with PhD candidate Deb Bowden (Feb 2012)
- Grey Nurse Sharks Missing in Action (Dec 2011)
- Fraser Helps Grey Nurse Sharks (Dec 2011)
- Sunrise TV Interview with Dr Carley Bansemer to launch GNS Watch (June 2011)
- Project updates and reports
- GNS Photo-ID Library
- 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.
Funding for this project has been generously provided by Australian Capital Equity and the Ronald Geoffrey Arnott Foundation (managed by Perpetual). The project is supported by Burnett Mary Regional Group for Natural Resource Management Ltd., Fauna & Flora International, 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.