Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Recovery Plan for the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) in Australia (Environment Australia, 2002a) [Recovery Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened fish. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.4 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2011i) [Admin Guideline].
 
Marine bioregional plan for the North-west Marine Region (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012y) [Admin Guideline].
 
Marine bioregional plan for the South-west Marine Region (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012z) [Admin Guideline].
 
DRAFT Issues Paper for the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2013k) [Admin Guideline].
 
Information Sheets Code of conduct for diving with Grey Nurse Sharks (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2002) [Information Sheet].
 
Information Sheet - Harmful marine Debris (Environment Australia, 2003ac) [Information Sheet].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Determination that a distinct population of biological entitites is a species under section 517 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Grey Nurse Shark) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2001a) [Legislative Instrument].
 
Inclusion of species in the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (24/09/2001) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2001d) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NT:Threatened Species of the Northern Territory - Grey Nurse Shark Grey Nurse Shark (Stirrat, S. & H. Larson, 2006) [Information Sheet].
State Listing Status
WA: Listed as Vulnerable* (Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (Western Australia): September 2013 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Near Threatened (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Carcharias taurus (west coast population) [68752]
Family Carcharhinidae:Carcharhiniformes:Chondrichthyes:Chordata:Animalia
Species author  
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Western Australia: At the species level, Carcharias taurus is listed as Vulnerable under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950.

International: At the species level, Carcharias taurus is listed as Vulnerable under the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resourses (IUCN) Red List 2008.
The Grey Nurse Shark was listed as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act in August 2000. This listing was based on declining population trends, the life history characteristics of the species, limited knowledge of their ecology and abundance, and the fact that Grey Nurse Sharks were still under pressure from some sectors of the Australian commercial and recreational fishing industries (Environment Australia 2002a).

However, in October 2001, the Grey Nurse Shark was listed as two separate populations (west and east coast populations) under the EPBC Act. The size of the west coast population is unknown but, considering the species' life history characteristics and continuing impacts from fishing, this population remains listed as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act. Given the serious decline in numbers of the east coast population of Grey Nurse Sharks, this population is now listed as Critically Endangered (Environment Australia 2002a).

Scientific name: Carcharias taurus (west coast population)

Common name: Grey Nurse Shark (west coast population)

Other common names: Sand Tiger Shark, Spotted Ragged-tooth Shark

In Australia, the Grey Nurse Shark is now restricted to two populations, one on the east coast from southern Queensland to southern NSW and the other around the south-west coast of Western Australia. The Grey Nurse Shark is now considered to be extinct in Victorian waters. It is believed that the east and west coast populations do not interact and ongoing research will probably confirm that the populations are genetically different (NSW Fisheries 2003).

The Grey Nurse Shark is one of four species belonging to the family Odontaspididae (Pollard et al. 1996). The species has a large, rather stout body and is coloured grey to grey-brown dorsally, with a paler off-white underbelly (Last & Stevens 1994). Reddish or brownish spots may occur on the caudal fin and posterior half of the body, particularly in juveniles (Last & Stevens 1994; Pollard et al. 1996). The species has a conical snout, long awl-like teeth in both jaws (with single lateral cusplets), similarly sized first and second dorsal fins and an asymmetrical caudal fin (Last & Stevens 1994; Pollard et al. 1996). Grey Nurse Sharks grow to at least 360 cm in length (Last & Stevens 1994). The Grey Nurse Shark is a slow, but strong, swimmer and is thought to be more active at night (Pollard et al. 1996).

The Grey Nurse Sharks in the Cod Grounds Commonwealth Marine Reserve Video (DEWR 2007) contains footage of this species in its natural environment.

The Grey Nurse Shark (west coast population) has a broad inshore distribution, primarily in sub-tropical to cool temperate waters (Last & Stevens 1994). The population of Grey Nurse Shark (west coast population) is predominantly found in the south-west coastal waters of Western Australia (Environment Australia 2002a) and has been recorded as far north as the North West Shelf (Stevens 1999; Pogonoski et al. 2002).

Grey Nurse Shark (west coast population) sightings and capture information (Chidlow et al. 2006):

Site Number Location Date observed Estimated number of Grey Nurse Sharks (west coast population)
1 Cape Leeuwin area various numerous
2 Cape Leeuwin area various numerous
3 Augusta (Salvation Reef, Bessie Reef, Big Island) various occasional sightings
4 Cape Naturaliste, Leeuwin area various numerous
5 South-west coast various numerous
6, 7 and 31 West coast various numerous
8 Perth Metro and Rottnest Island various occasional sightings
9 Rottnest Island unknown occasional sightings
10 North-east of Rottnest Island January 2005 1
11 Dirk Hartog Island unknown occasional sightings
12 Coral Bay various occasional sightings
13 and 14 Exmounth and Muiron Islands various occasional sightings
15 Rottnest Island (west patch) April 2004, unknown occasional sightings
16 Opera House (off Hillarys) and west end of Rottnest unknown occasional sightings
17 Approximately 12 km off Hillarys 23/03/05 3
18 North Rottnest Island 06/03/05 1
19 Roe Reef, Rottnest Island 19/03/05 1
20 West End, Rottnest Island March/April 2004 2
21 Gardner Reef near Windy Harbour January 1991 1
22 Gnarloo Station unknown 6–8
23 Twilight Cove near Cocklebiddy (off beach) January 2005 2
24 Garden Island June 2005 1
25 West of Carnarvon various occasional captures
26 West of Quobba Station various occasional captures
27 Cathedral Rocks, west end, Rottnest Island various occasional sightings
28 Exmount, Muiron Islands and Coral Bay 2002–03 occasional sightings
29 3 Mile Reef, Hillarys January 2005 occasional sightings
30 Albany/Esperance various numerous
32 Asho's Gap, Coral Bay and Muiron Islands, Exmounth various occasional sightings
33 Gnarloo Station various occasional sightings
34 Exmounth various occasional sightings

The Grey Nurse Shark was originally broadly distributed around the world's main continents, primarily in subtropical to cool temperate coastal waters. They have been recorded from the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans but are now restricted to waters off the east coast of the USA, Uruguay, Argentina, South Africa and Australia (Last & Stevens 1994; NSW Fisheries 2003).

Grey Nurse Shark populations have declined worldwide. In Japanese waters the population has declined to a point where they are no longer caught. In Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, fishers catch Grey Nurse Sharks when they fish close to shore. However, catches are declining. In the United States the species is protected from fishing and in South Africa their capture is being phased out (NSW Fisheries 2003).

Catch and catch rate data from the demersal gillnet fishery, prior to 1997, indicates that Grey Nurse Sharks were relatively abundant in temperate Western Australian waters in the mid to late 1990s and that the population was stable (Cavanagh et al. 2003).

Grey Nurse Sharks are often observed hovering motionless just above the seabed, in or near deep sandy-bottomed gutters or rocky caves, and in the vicinity of inshore rocky reefs and islands (Pollard et al. 1996). The species has been recorded at varying depths, but is generally found between 15–40 m (Otway & Parker 2000). Grey Nurse Sharks have also been recorded in the surf zone, around coral reefs, and to depths of around 200 m on the continental shelf (Pollard et al. 1996). They generally occur either alone or in small to medium sized groups, usually of fewer than 20 sharks (Pollard et al. 1996). Grey Nurse Sharks that are observed alone are thought to be moving between aggregation sites (Environment Australia 2002a).

The Grey Nurse Shark has a relatively low growth rate and take 4–6 years to mature (Branstetter & Musick 1994), with both males and females maturing at about 220 cm in length (Last & Stevens 1994). The growth increment for ages zero to one is 25–30 cm, declining by around 5 cm every two years to a minimum of 5–10 cm/year (Branstetter & Musick, 1994). The maximum total length is about 318 cm for females and 257 cm for males (Compagno 1984; Branstetter & Musick 1994). This species grows to a maximum weight of at least 190 kg (Pepperell 1992).

The precise timing of mating and pupping in Australian waters is unknown. Many Grey Nurse Shark (east coast population) individuals have been observed at Pimpernel Rock, NSW, during the months of March and April with mating scars, ie. bite marks around the pectoral fins and head area (D. White n.d., pers. comm., cited in Otway & Parker 1999). In South Africa mating occurs between late October and the end of November, with pregnant females moving southwards each year during July and August to give birth in early spring, then returning northward. Once impregnated, the female stores the sperm while the ovaries produce eggs that move to the oviduct where they are fertilised (Marsh 1995). Not all migrating females are sexually active and generally only reproduce once every two years (Smith & Pollard 1999).

The reproductive norm for the Grey Nurse Shark includes oophagy and intra-uterine cannibalism which results in a maximum of two young per litter (one in each uterus). Embryos hatch into the uterus at about 55 mm long and, at lengths of around 10 cm, develop teeth and consume other embryos in the uterus. The single remaining embryo in each uterus then feeds on any unfertilised eggs as the female continues to ovulate. Gestation takes 9–12 months (Last & Stevens 1994).

At birth the Grey Nurse Shark pups measure, on average, 1 m in length (Last & Stevens 1994). In Australia it appears that Grey Nurse Sharks give birth at select pupping grounds. In July 2001, the first recorded birth of a Grey Nurse Shark was observed; one pup was born in the late morning at Julian Rocks, Byron Bay (N. Otway n.d., pers. comm., cited in Environment Australia 2002a).

A Grey Nurse Shark held in captivity at a Sydney aquarium lived for 13 years, and others have lived for over 16 years in captivity in South Africa (Govender et al. 1991). Passerotti and colleagues (2014) validated longevity of 34 and 40 years for males and females, respectively, in the northern Atlantic Ocean and south-west Indian Ocean. Aging using visual counts of vertebral growth bands may only be suitable for individuals that are up to 12 years of age (Passerotti et al. 2014).

The diet of the adult Grey Nurse Shark consists of a wide range of fish, other sharks and rays, squids, crabs and lobsters (Compagno 1984). In Australia it is likely that the Grey Nurse Shark diet consists of species such as pilchards (Genus: Sardinops ), jewfish (Genus: Glaucosoma), tailor (Genus: Pomatomus), bonito (Genus: Sarda), moray eels (Family: Muraenidae), wrasses (Family: Labridae), sea mullet (Genus: Mugil), flatheads (Family: Platycephalidae), Yellowtail Kingfish (Seriola lalandi), small sharks, squid and crustaceans (N. Otway n.d., pers. comm., cited in Environment Australia 2002a). Observations also suggest that schools of Grey Nurse Sharks can feed cooperatively by concentrating schooling prey before feeding on them (Compagno 1984; Ireland 1984). It is important to note that many of the species that comprise the Grey Nurse Shark diet are also harvested by commercial, recreational and spearfishing interests (Environment Australia 2002a).

The Grey Nurse Shark generally occurs as solitary individuals or in small schools. Larger aggregations of individuals may occur for courtship and mating (Compagno 1984).

A project that examined movements of few Grey Nurse Sharks (west coast population) using Pop-up archival transmitting tags found that three juveniles moved hundreds of kilometres along the Western Australia Midwest coast between Perth and Kalbarri (McAuley 2004), suggesting that individual Grey Nurse Sharks (west coast population) may not be restricted to particular localities or habitats. The Grey Nurse Shark (east coast population) is known to have a complex (sex and age segregated) seasonal migration pattern (Otway & Parker 2000; Pollard et al. 1996), while Compagno (1984) suggests this species is migratory throughout much of its distribution. Additionally, movements of tagged Grey Nurse Shark (west coast population) between depths of 20–160 m also indicated broad use of the continental shelf (McAuley 2004).

Dive charter operators regularly see Grey Nurse Sharks at the same locations and these observations suggest that the species exhibits some degree of site fidelity (Pollard et al. 1996). This characteristic makes the species vulnerable to localised pressures in certain areas (Environment Australia 1997a).

Commercial Fishing
The Grey Nurse Shark (west coast population) is caught incidentally in droplines, commercial demersal nets and other line fishing gear. The demersal gillnet fishery that operates between Steep Point and the South Australian border is the cause of significant numbers of deaths of Grey Nurse Sharks (west coast population) from incidental bycatch in the southwest marine region (Chidlow et al. 2006; DEWHA 2008a; Pollard et al. 2003). Between 1989–1997, from 70 to 105 Grey Nurse Shark (west coast population) catches were recorded annually in the demersal gillnet fishery (Pollard et al. 2003).

Grey Nurse Sharks were utilised for their fins and for the high quality leather that could be produced from their skin (Roughley 1955). Grey Nurse Shark meat has been utilised fresh, frozen, smoked, dried and salted for human consumption (Compagno 1984).

In spite of legislative protection Grey Nurse Sharks are still under threat from incidental catch in some commercial fisheries. Professional fishers once avoided the rocky habitats where Grey Nurse Sharks congregate but with improved technology (such as Geographical Positioning Systems) they are able to navigate more accurately and fish closer to these areas. There are very few records of Grey Nurse Sharks being caught in Commonwealth managed fisheries (Environment Australia 2002a).

Commercial fisheries that impact, or potentially impact, on Grey Nurse Sharks (west coast population) (Environment Australia 2002a):

Jurisdiction Fishery
Western Australia Northern Shark Fishery
Western Australia West Coast Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Fishery
Western Australia Southern Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Fishery

The Grey Nurse Shark (west coast population) is caught as a bycatch in Western Australian commercial shark fisheries. Between 1985 and 2000, 52.3 t (live wet weight) of Grey Nurse Sharks (west coast population) were caught in the Joint Authority Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Fishery and the West Coast Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Fishery (R. McAuley n.d., pers. comm., cited in Environment Australia 2002a). In addition it is estimated that 6.6 t of Grey Nurse Sharks (west coast population) were taken as bycatch in the Western Australia Northern Shark Fishery in 1996 (Stevens 1999). This northern Western Australia data may not be entirely accurate as there are some problems with identifying vessels licensed to operate in this fishery and there is likely to be some misidentification of the species (R. McAuley n.d., pers. comm., cited in Environment Australia 2002a). Even though the species became protected in Western Australia in 1997, it is most likely still caught as bycatch in commercial shark fisheries (Environment Australia 2002a).

Shark Finning
The high market value for shark fins is leading to a level of catch of sharks worldwide that may be unsustainable. As such, the practice of shark finning, where the fins are removed and the carcass discarded, poses a threat to Grey Nurse Sharks (Environment Australia 2002a).

The Department of Fisheries has implemented a ban where fishers in Western Australia waters are required to land whole sharks at port before the fins can be removed. An interim ban on the at sea finning of sharks has been implemented in all Commonwealth tuna long line fisheries (Environment Australia 2002a).

There are, however, commercial fisheries in Australia that take shark fins as by-product. Shark finning is poorly documented in Australian fisheries and several fisheries in Australia target sharks. Approximately 92 t of dried shark fin was exported from Australian fisheries in 1998–99, valued at about $5.5 million. In 1998–99, approximately 7700 t of landed shark catch was reported from target shark fisheries. It is estimated that 55.6 t of the 92 t of export dried shark fin in 1998–99 were derived from target and non-target shark fisheries where the trunk is retained. The majority of this shark fin is from the Southern Shark Fishery, managed by the Commonwealth, and from the Western Australia's target shark fisheries (DAFF 2001).

Recreational Fishing
Incidental catch from game fishing may be a potential threat for Grey Nurse Sharks although they are not favoured by game fishers as they are considered to be poor fights in comparison to other shark species. The impact of incidental catch by game fishers on Grey Nurse Shark populations remains unknown but is thought to be minimal in the south-west marine bioregion (DEWHA 2008a; Pollard et al. 2003).

As late as the 1980s, Grey Nurse Sharks were perceived by the public as man-eaters, mainly due to their fierce appearance (Taronga Zoo 1996). This misunderstanding led to many Grey Nurse Sharks (east coast population) being killed in the 1950s and 1960s by the intensive fishing efforts of spearfishers using powerheads (Ireland 1984). One of the possible explanations for Grey Nurse Sharks being more abundant in Western Australia waters is that they were never subject to the spearfishing pressure during the 1950s and 60s that the Grey Nurse Shark (east coast population) encountered. Many spearfishers and divers have been involved in conservation activities including the protection of Grey Nurse Sharks and survey work on the species (Environment Australia 2002a).

The Grey Nurse Shark (west coast population) is also threatened by commercial fishing practices. Hook wounds to Grey Nurse Sharks can puncture the stomach, pericardial cavity, and oesophagus causing infections and death. A hooked shark, upon release, may swim away seemingly unharmed, only to die several days later from internal bleeding or peritonitis. The stress of capture may cause changes in the physiology of a shark including bradycardia, blood acidosis, hyperglycaemia and muscle rigidity (Environment Australia 2002a).

Autopsies have been carried out on 10 Grey Nurse Sharks that have been accidentally caught or killed. Six of these sharks had hooks inside them. As these hooks were not visible upon the initial, external examination, this suggests that the number of grey nurse sharks with embedded hooks seen during the underwater surveys is probably a significant underestimate of the total number of grey nurse sharks potentially being injured by fish hooks. (NSW Fisheries 2003; Otway & Parker 2000).

EcoTourism
In Western Australia, there is a small tourism industry associated with diving with Grey Nurse Sharks (west coast population). This industry is currently not perceived as a threat to this species, but it remains uncertain whether frequent disturbance may displace Grey Nurse Sharks (west coast population) from important habitats (DEWHA 2008a).

Ecotourism activities relevant to the Grey Nurse Shark include scuba diving and shark viewing operations. Interactions between snorkel and scuba divers and Grey Nurse Sharks were once relatively common. However, these interactions are now rare (Pollard et al. 1996).

The Grey Nurse Shark has become a big attraction to scuba divers and increasing pressure has been placed on operators to take divers to places where they can encounter these sharks (Otway & Parker 2000). It is possible that poorly managed shark viewing operations at popular sites may deter site-attached populations from residing in the area. There have been reports of scuba divers disturbing Grey Nurse Sharks, either accidentally or deliberately (Pollard et al 1996).

If divers continue to keep their distance whilst diving with these sharks it is unlikely that scuba diving will have any detrimental effects on the shark's survival (Otway & Parker 2000). Divers are often in the best situations to observe Grey Nurse Sharks and show genuine interest in surveys, education and conservation of the species. Regular viewing trips, when properly managed, offer a good opportunity for data collection on these and other sharks (Bruce 1995).

While ecotourism is not currently perceived as a major threat to the Grey Nurse Shark, growth in this industry is expected and preventative actions taken now may reduce any impacts in the future. These actions may include a range of options such as seasonal closures of these activities in marine protected areas, or the development and uptake of a code of conduct for commercial operators and dive clubs (DEWHA 2008a; Environment Australia 2002a).

Shark Deterrent Devices
Sharks show the greatest sensitivity to electrical stimuli in the animal kingdom. Further information is thus needed on the effect of shark deterrent devices on Grey Nurse Sharks. Devices such as the 'Shark Pod' (or Protective Oceanic Device) emit an electrical field that repels sharks. The Shark Pod repels sharks at close quarters by creating an electrical field around the scuba diver that totally disrupts the shark's ampullae of Lorenzini. The ampullae of Lorenzini are the natural electrical detectors situated along a shark's face that are used to detect minute electronic signals emitted by potential prey (Taylor 1997). It is not known what effect these types of shark deterrent devices may have on Grey Nurse Sharks.

There is a report of a diver using a Shark Pod device in the shark gutter at the Tollgate Islands off Batemans Bay (N. Otway n.d., pers. comm., cited in Environment Australia 2002a). The Grey Nurse Sharks (east coast population) were disturbed by the shark deterrent device and left the gutter that they normally inhabited. These Grey Nurse Sharks (east coast population) did not return until several days later. This type of impact needs to be prevented, and shark deterrent devices should not be used at known Grey Nurse Shark aggregation sites (Environment Australia 2002a).

Aquarium Trade
Grey Nurse Sharks are a good species for captive display due to their size, slow movement, relatively docile nature and slow metabolic rate. They are popular with the public due to their size and fierce appearance. As early as the 1950s Grey Nurse Sharks that were retrieved alive would sometimes be sold to aquariums for display purposes (Edwards 1997; Fisheries Department of Western Australia 1996).

There are 30 Grey Nurse Sharks in commercial aquaria in Australia. These aquaria are also involved in Grey Nurse Shark captive breeding programs, survey work and educational programs. Aquariums have been actively involved in research activities on Grey Nurse Sharks including behavioural and breeding studies (Environment Australia 2002a).

Commercial aquaria holdings of Grey Nurse Sharks in Australia (Environment Australia 2002a):

Aquarium Males Females Total
Underwater World, Western Australia 1 7 8
Underwater World, Queensland 3 4 7
Melbourne Aquarium, Victoria 1 2 3
Sydney Aquarium, NSW 2 3 5
Manly Oceanworld, NSW 3 4 7
Total 10 20 30

The Recovery Plan for the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) in Australia (Environment Australia 2002a) details the following recovery objectives:

  • reduce the impact of commercial fishing on Grey Nurse Sharks
  • reduce the impact of recreational fishing on Grey Nurse Sharks
  • reduce the impact of shark finning on Grey Nurse Sharks
  • reduce the impact of shark control activities on Grey Nurse Sharks
  • manage the impact of ecotourism on Grey Nurse Sharks
  • eliminate the impact of aquaria on Grey Nurse Sharks
  • identify and establish conservation areas to protect Grey Nurse Sharks from threatening activities such as commercial and recreational fishing
  • develop research programs to assist conservation of Grey Nurse Sharks
  • develop population models to assess Grey Nurse Shark populations and monitor their recovery
  • promote community education about Grey Nurse Sharks
  • develop a quantitative framework to assess the recovery of the species.

To fulfil the specific objectives of this plan, the following actions are designed to identify and reduce threats to Grey Nurse Sharks, to determine levels of mortality and to reduce that mortality. The assessment of these actions against the criteria for success is essential to measure the recovery of Grey Nurse Sharks. These actions and recovery criteria (Environment Australia 2002a) are:

  • Assess commercial and recreational fisheries data to determine current level of Grey Nurse Shark bycatch.
  • Modify fisheries logbooks to record Grey Nurse Shark catch and biological data (e.g. size, sex, etc.).
  • Ensure existing fishery observer programs record interactions with Grey Nurse Sharks.
  • Quantify and reduce levels of Grey Nurse Shark take in shark control activities.
  • Establish community based programs to identify and monitor key sites for Grey Nurse Sharks.
  • Develop appropriate mechanisms to protect key sites.
  • Establish tag and release programs for Grey Nurse Sharks.
  • Prevent unregulated shark finning of Grey Nurse Sharks.
  • Assess the population size and status of Grey Nurse Sharks.
  • Collect biological and genetic information on Grey Nurse Sharks.
  • Minimise the impacts of dive ecotourism activities and aquarium display on Grey Nurse Sharks.
  • Develop a community education strategy for Grey Nurse Sharks.
  • Reassessment of the conservation status of the Grey Nurse Shark.

The National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (Shark Plan) (Shark Advisory Group & M. Lack 2004) details the following objectives specific for species identified in the International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (FAO 2009) which includes the Grey Nurse Shark (west coast population):

  • Ensure that shark catches from target and non-target fisheries are sustainable.
  • Assess threats to shark populations, determine and protect critical habitats and implement harvesting strategies consistent with the principles of biological sustainability and rational long-term economic use.
  • Identify and provide special attention, in particular, to vulnerable or threatened sharks.
  • Improve and develop frameworks for establishing and coordinating effective consultation involving all stakeholders in research, management and educational initiatives within and between states.
  • Minimise unutilised incidental catches of sharks.
  • Contribute to the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem structure and function.
  • Minimise waste and discards from shark catches.

Marine bioregional plans have been developed for four of Australia's marine regions - South-west, North-west, North and Temperate East. Marine Bioregional Plans will help improve the way decisions are made under the EPBC Act, particularly in relation to the protection of marine biodiversity and the sustainable use of our oceans and their resources by our marine-based industries. Marine Bioregional Plans improve our understanding of Australia's oceans by presenting a consolidated picture of the biophysical characteristics and diversity of marine life. They describe the marine environment and conservation values of each marine region, set out broad biodiversity objectives, identify regional priorities and outline strategies and actions to address these priorities. Click here for more information about marine bioregional plans.

The Grey Nurse Shark (west coast population) has been identified as a conservation value in the South-west (DSEWPaC 2012z) and North-west (DSEWPaC 2012y) marine regions. See Schedule 2 of the South-west Marine Bioregional Plan (DSEWPaC 2012z) for regional advice. The "species group report card - sharks" for the South-west Marine Region and the "species group report card - sharks and sawfishes" for the North-west (DSEWPaC 2012y) Marine Region provide additional information.

The Recovery Plan for the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) in Australia (Environment Australia 2002a), the Conservation Overview and Action Plan for Australian Threatened and Potentially Threatened Marine and Estuarine Fishes (Pogonoski et al. 2002) and the South-West Marine Bioregional Plan: Bioregional Profile: A Description of the Ecosystems, Conservation Values and Uses of the South-West Marine Region (DEWHA 2008a) provide guides to the conservation and management strategies for the Grey Nurse Shark.

The NSW Fisheries and Environment Australia, in consultation with the dive industry, have developed the Code of conduct for diving with Grey Nurse Sharks (DEH 2002).

The Identification of Western Australian Grey Nurse Shark aggregation sites (Chidlow et al. 2006) aims to determine if Grey Nurse Shark aggregation sites occur in WA waters and, if so, the most appropriate method to monitor these sites.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Commercial harvest Recovery Plan for the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) in Australia (Environment Australia, 2002a) [Recovery Plan].
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Habitat modification and negative impacts on species numbers due to recreational fishing Recovery Plan for the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) in Australia (Environment Australia, 2002a) [Recovery Plan].
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Harvesting of shark body parts Recovery Plan for the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) in Australia (Environment Australia, 2002a) [Recovery Plan].
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Overfishing, competition with fishing operations and overfishing of prey fishing Recovery Plan for the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) in Australia (Environment Australia, 2002a) [Recovery Plan].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Recreational Activities:Environemental pressures due to ecotourism Recovery Plan for the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) in Australia (Environment Australia, 2002a) [Recovery Plan].

Branstetter, S. & J.A. Musick (1994). Age and growth estimates for the sand tiger in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 123:242-254.

Bruce, B.D. (1995). The protection of white shark. A research perspective. Southern Fisheries. 3.2:10-15. South Australia: Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.

Cavanagh R, D., P.M. Kyne, S.L. Fowler, J.A. Musick & M.B. Bennett, eds. (2003). The Conservation Status of Australian Chondrichthyans: Report of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group Australia and Oceania Regional Red List Workshop. Brisbane, Queensland: The University of Queensland, School of Biomedical Sciences.

Chidlow, J., D. Gaughan & R. McAuley (2006). Identification of Western Australian Grey Nurse Shark Aggregation Sites. Fisheries Research Report Number 155. Western Australia: Department of Fisheries.

Compagno, L.J.V. (1984). Part 1 - Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Species Catalogue, Vol. 4., Sharks of the World. An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of Sharks Known to Date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis. 4(1):1-249.

Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) (2001). A review of shark finning in Australian Fisheries.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) (2011i). Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened fish. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.4 . [Online]. EPBC Act policy statement. Canberra, ACT: DSEWPAC. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/threatened-fish.html.

Department of the Environment and Heritage (2002). Code of conduct for diving with Grey Nurse Sharks. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/species/sharks/greynurse/code.html. [Accessed: 20-May-2009].

Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEWR) (2007). Grey Nurse Sharks in the Cod Grounds Commonwealth Marine Reserve - Videos. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/publications/grey-nurse-shark-videos.html. [Accessed: 20-May-2009].

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2008a). The South-West Marine Bioregional Plan: Bioregional Profile: A Description of the Ecosystems, Conservation Values and Uses of the South-West Marine Region. [Online]. Canberra: DEWHA. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/south-west-marine-bioregional-plan-bioregional-profile-description-ecosystems-conservation.

Edwards, H. (1997). Shark: the shadow below. Sydney, NSW: Harper Collins Publishers.

Environment Australia (1997a). Report to the Minister - Public nomination to the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992: Great white shark and Grey Nurse Shark - recommended by the Endangered Species Scientific Subcommittee in the Threatened Species and Communities Section. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Carcharias taurus (west coast population) in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Thu, 21 Aug 2014 03:09:05 +1000.