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27 November 2009 - Protection still needed for grey nurse sharks       


27 November 2009                                                  

The results are now in for the census of critically endangered east coast population of the grey nurse shark, and whilst the good news is that numbers appear to be stable, this species remains on a knife-edge. With an estimated population of 1,300 individuals, this is still well below the internationally recognised level of 5,000 individuals at which the future of a species is considered at peril.

The results of the Government commissioned survey, involving the use of new estimation techniques, demonstrate that the east coast population of grey nurse shark may be showing signs of small increases. However considering the low population level, every single individual remains vital for the future of this species.

‘Governments need to act now to ensure urgent protection of our grey nurse sharks’, said Alexia Wellbelove of Humane Society International. ‘Only the continued protection of grey nurse sharks will ensure their future survival. It’s clear that the continued pressure on the species from fishing and through capture in shark nets remains a key risk to the species, and efforts must be made urgently to address these. Better identification and protection of the grey nurse shark’s critical habitat is vital to ensure this can occur, together with the removal of shark nets to avoid any more loss of this critically endangered species.’

The shark was listed under State and Commonwealth threatened species laws following a scientific nomination by HSI. The eastern population of the grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus) is typically found inshore near sandy bottoms and rocky caves off the coasts of NSW and Queensland. Growing to over 3 metres, its long jagged teeth led to the misconception that it is particularly dangerous to man. This misconception led to the indiscriminate killing of this animal by spear and line fishers, resulting in the east coast population being listed as critically endangered and the west coast as vulnerable in 1984. The species is now recognised as being harmless.

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