Last weekend I delivered the AWARE Shark Conservation Diver course to a group of divers from Dive Centre Manly. For our dives we headed to Magic Point in south Sydney, a recognised grey nurse shark aggregation.
Magic Point is an awesome dive. We settled on the gravel bottom in 16 metres a short distance from the sharks - then we simply stayed still and waited. From the beginning we could see the sharks circling, but as they became accustomed to us they swam ever closer. Patience is amply rewarded here - sit still and the sharks come to look at you!
On both dives we saw at least 12 female grey nurse sharks - each around 1.5 to 2 metres. With a population of around 1000 to 1500 individuals, each one of these beauties is precious.
The AWARE Shark Conservation course allows Instructors to speak about issues affecting sharks in their local waters, and in NSW, Australia there is plenty to discuss. The Australian east coast grey nurse shark population is Critically Endangered, however recent reversals in bans on types of fishing gear that can be used in some grey nurse shark aggregation areas, and recent removals of improvements to zoning in some NSW marine parks, are exposing the population to a greater risk of extinction.
Australia is often credited as being a world leader in marine park management, but that cannot be said of NSW, where protection for these majestic sharks is sadly lacking.
If you love sharks and want to learn more about the issues bringing many populations close to extinction please contact your local PADI dive centre and ask about completing your AWARE Shark Conservation Diver Distinctive Specialty course. It will totally change your perspective of sharks.
Thanks to the team at Dive Centre Manly for arranging this course and to my shark dive buddies who happily put up with less than perfect conditions to snatch some very special time with our very special sharks.
David Roe, Marine Conservation Officer, Project AWARE