• Sea World Research & Rescue Foundation - Funded Project


PROJECT TITLE: Grey Nurse Shark Watch
RESEARCHERS: Dr Carley Kilpatrick, Professor Mike Bennett and Miss Deborah Bowden
LOCATION: Currently east coast of Australia (primarily Queensland and NSW) but hoping to expand to include the west coast grey nurse shark population in 2015


The grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus) is a large fish eating species with a stout body and is coloured grey to grey-bronze dorsally with a paler off-white underbelly and reddish or brownish spots often scattered on the body. There are approximately 20 known critical aggregation sites in NSW and there are estimated to be less than 2000 grey nurse sharks (GNS) on the entire east coast of Australia, one reason this population is Critically Endangered.*

As GNS like to aggregate (hang out) and are often found inshore in shallow water (<1000m and usually less than 30m) it is possible to assess population abundance using scuba divers and photographs. These photographs are taken opportunistically throughout the year and during two annual scheduled surveys to photo-identify and photo-recapture individual sharks (from the unique spot patterns on the sides of each shark).

With the support of Sea World, Grey Nurse Shark Watch (GNS Watch) will conduct a multi-day GNS photographic and visual survey to remote and exposed sites rarely documented by volunteer divers.

GNS Watch seeks, collates, analyses and reports on data provided by our volunteers and researchers and will contribute to six of ten objectives in the 2014 National Recovery Plan (Recovery Plan) for the GNS.

GNS Watch will:

  1. For the first time, monitor the numbers of the Australian east coast population of GNS and determine if it is increasing, stable or declining

  2. Provide information on their distribution and movements at different stages in their life history

  3. Provide data to enable interactions with commercial and recreational fishing gear to be quantified, along with associated injuries and any shark recovery

  4. Help to identify new aggregation sites

  5. Increase public awareness

  6. Importantly, GNS Watch through community and researcher photos will provide good data for management purposes via an open and transparent mechanism that involves interested parties

Grey nurse shark Watch (GNS Watch) is a citizen science research and monitoring program that engages a broad cross-section of our community and ultimately aims to use the data obtained (through our 300 + registered volunteers, 550 Facebook followers and research team) to improve the conservation management of the grey nurse shark (GNS) in Australia and to help the Critically Endangered east coast population to recover.

*Recovery Plan for the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) (2014) Department of the Environment, Australian Government