Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus)
IUCN: International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List,
East coast of Australia subpopulation: listed as critically endangered (2003); and Western Australia subpopulation: listed as near threatened (2003).
· Commonwealth: The east coast population is listed as critically endangered and the west coast population is listed as vulnerable under the EPBC Act.
· New South Wales: Critically Endangered (Fisheries Management Act 1994)
· Queensland: Endangered (Nature Conservation Act 1992) 10
· Queensland: Protected (Fisheries Act 1994)
· Victoria: Protected (Fisheries Act 1995). Threatened (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988)
· Tasmania: Protected (Fisheries Regulations 1996)
· Western Australia: Threatened (Wildlife Conservation Act 1950) with a ranking of vulnerable
For anyone who’s had the honour to swim with a Grey Nurse Shark in the wild you’ll understand why so many Australians are so passionate about protecting these beautiful, harmless creatures. The majestic, placid nature of the Grey Nurse Shark has led them to be labelled as ‘Labradors of the Sea’ and they have won a place in the hearts of many Australians.
The Grey Nurse Shark exists in two sub-species in Australia; the West Coast and East Coast populations, which are genetically distinct and rarely, if ever, cross-breed. The East Coast Grey Nurse Shark is widely regarded as the first shark in the world to have received protection when it was listed as vulnerable in New South Wales in 1984.
But the Grey Nurse Sharks hasn’t always enjoyed this kind of adoration and protection in Australian waters. In the 1950s and 1960s the Grey Nurse Shark, particularly the East Coast population, suffered from intense, focused fishing efforts. Mistaken for man-eaters, they were hunted with explosive-headed spears by spear fishers. Tragically their placid nature made them easy targets. They have also been extensively commercially fished, caught as by-catch and killed in nets set-up by beach meshing programs.
Despite first being protected almost 30 years ago, the Grey Nurse Shark is still under great threat in Australia. Reports have been unable to prove if the critically endangered East Coast population has shown any signs of recovery. Today, recreational and commercial fishing and mortality related to shark control activities such as beach meshing and drumlining are still the greatest threats to the Australian Grey Nurse Shark populations.
Some vocal groups opposed to protection for the Grey Nurse Shark have expressed a desire to see the return of fishing in Grey Nurse Shark critical habitat zones. These areas have been protected, by law, specifically because of their significance to Grey Nurse Shark populations.
A reduction in protection could prove catastrophic for the future of this iconic species.
The Australian Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPC) has called for public comments on the Commonwealth Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey Nurse Shark. “The recovery plan sets out the research and management actions necessary to stop the decline of, and support the recovery of, the grey nurse shark in Australian waters.”
This is your chance to have your voice heard to support the protection of our Grey Nurse Shark. Please take the time to have your say and help to protect the future of our Grey Nurse Shark.
The Australian Government has made this recovery plan available at: www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/recovery-comment.html
Comments must be received by 22 November 2013 and should be sent to:
Wildlife Conservation Branch
Wildlife, Heritage and Marine Division
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
GPO Box 787
CANBERRA ACT 2601
For further information please contact the department’s Community Information Unit on 1800 803 772
 Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Populations and Communities, 2013 Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus), 2013, p. 6.
 Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Populations and Communities, 2013 Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus), 2013, p. 12
Please take the time to have your say and help to protect the future of our Grey Nurse Shark
photo: Matt Squires