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WHAT IS GREY NURSE SHARK WATCH?
The grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus) is one of Australia's most endangered species with only 1500 thought to remain within the east coast subpopulation. Accordingly, this subpopulation is listed under the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered.
Grey Nurse Shark Watch (GNS Watch) was launched in June 2011 and is a citizen science research and monitoring program that engages a broad cross-section of our community and ultimately aims to use the data obtained through our volunteers and research team to improve the conservation management of the GNS in Australia and to help the Critically Endangered east coast population to recover.
The GNS Watch program uses visual counts and photographs of GNS collected opportunistically throughout the year and during two annual scheduled surveys to photo-identify and photo-recapture individual sharks (from the unique spot patterns on the sides of each shark).
GNS Watch seeks, collates, analyses and reports on data provided by our volunteers and researchers and aims to contribute to six of ten objectives in the 2014 National Recovery Plan (Recovery Plan) for this critically endangered species.
Specifically, GNS Watch aims to:
1. For the first time, monitor the numbers of the Australian east coast population of grey nurse sharks and determine if it is increasing, stable or declining,
2. Provide information on the distribution and movements at different stages in their life history,
3. Provide data to enable interactions with commercial and recreational fishing gear to be quantified, along with associated injuries and any shark recovery,
4. Help to identify new aggregation sites,
5. Increase public awareness, and importantly,
6. GNS Watch through community and researcher photos will provide good data for management purposes via an open and transparent mechanism that involves interested parties.
GNS WATCH PRODUCTS AND REPORTS FOR VOLUNTEERS AND INTERESTED STAKEHOLDERS
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
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.
Annual scheduled surveys:
Survey 1: January/February
Survey 2: July/August
Grey Nurse Shark Watch Video - Wolf Rock
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.
Relevant Scientific Publications
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)
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.
This project is currently supported by the Winifred Violett Scott CharitableTrust, Burnett Mary Regional Group, Reef Check Australia and the University of Queensland.
Past support for this project was generously provided by Flora & Fauna International Australia through funding from the Australian Government's Caring for our Country, 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.
If you experience technical difficulties, please contact Reef Check Australia Support.