Diving on the east coast of Australia is incredible; warm tropical seas or cool temperate waters, both support an amazing array of marine life. Great schools of fish swarm in the dappled sunlight with perhaps a passing turtle or ray in the background. But at a handful of dive sites you see none of this; your eyes are firmly fixed on the circling grey nurse sharks.
Grey nurse sharks (Carcharias taurus) are known as spotted ragged-tooth sharks in Africa and as sand tiger sharks in the US and UK. They are found in most subtropical and temperate oceans. Worldwide the species is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTMas Vulnerable but some populations, including on the east coast of Australia, are Critically Endangered, meaning they face an extremely high risk of extinction.
Now more than ever, Australia’s east coast grey nurse sharks need a friend - it's time for us divers to step up and be that friend. Help demand the New South Wales Government protects the critically endangered shark before August 26th.
Recent research shows there are less than 1500 individual grey nurse sharks on Australia's east coast. To be downgraded from critically endangered there will need to be a population of 5000. Like most sharks, greys are slow at building up their numbers. When a population is this small every individual is precious.
As divers we have a unique relationship with sharks. But soon we may be lucky to see a grey nurse shark in eastern Australia. The New South Wales Government recently overturned new fishing regulations designed to protect grey nurse sharks that were supported by research from their own Department of Primary Industries. Bans on the types of fishing tackle that can be used in certain key aggregation areas have been removed just weeks after they were put in place.
Additional recent changes by the same state government remove other protections for grey nurse sharks such as winding back recent enlargements to no-take sanctuary zones in two NSW marine parks and placing a five-year moratorium on new marine parks.
Project AWARE often says that the ocean is fighting for its life. Here in NSW it can feel like the ocean is losing that fight.
You have until August 26 to demand the New South Wales Government protects the critically endangered grey nurse shark. No matter where you live in the world, please use your voice to gain greater protection for these beautiful animals.