Landmark Study Maps Critically Endangered Grey Nurse Shark For The First Time

Source: Phys.org/Macquarie University

Photo: Iain Whyte/Wikimedia Commons 

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A study mapping the eastern Australian grey nurse shark population has found it has declined rapidly over the last few decades, with only 400 breeding sharks left, too few to maintain a healthy population.

The findings reveal that additional protection measures are needed to halt further  declines of the critically endangered shark.

The number of breeding individuals remaining is not enough to maintain genetic health and reduces the ability of the population to survive future environmental changes.

Diving with grey nurse sharks is a popular attraction at locations along the east coast of Australia, but the declining population puts the industry’s future in doubt.

The grey nurse shark suffered major declines from overfishing in the 60s and 70s because they were considered dangerous and are easy to kill, being relatively slow-moving and aggregating in regular areas. This resulted in controversial closures of fishing areas.

Despite designated protection areas, the study found that grey nurse sharks tend to disperse out of these areas and get caught as by-catch or sometimes killed by entanglement in the shark meshing program, as they travel between the safe zones.

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Photo: Iain Whyte/Wikimedia Commons

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