Known as the Sand Tiger in the USA, and Ragged-Tooth shark in Southern Africa, the Australian Grey Nurse shark (Carcharias taurus) is a large and distinctive shark that has suffered greatly from the widely held perception that it is a man-eater and is currently listed as of the most endangered shark species in the country.
Now formally protected its slow rate of reproduction means that the Australian Grey Nurse Shark is fighting what is quite possibly a losing battle to restore its numbers to anywhere near what they used to be just 40 years ago.
The Australian Grey Nurse Shark is to be found on both the east and west coasts of the country.
In the east they are to be found in many spots along the coast of New South Wales, from Byron Bay in the north, all the way down to Montague Island near Narooma in the south of the state.
There are also some well-known aggregation sites in southern Queensland such as Moreton and Stradbroke Islands and Rainbow Beach.
Although not unknown they are very rare in the southern states of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania or in the Great Australian Bight. While in Western Australia the Australian Grey Nurse Shark is mainly found in the south-west coastal waters of the state but has been recorded as far north as the North West Shelf.
The Australian Grey Nurse Shark – East Coast Population
The most recent data on the east coast population is from a government sponsored survey conducted in 2010 which estimated there were between 1146 and 1662 individual sharks.
Not a good number, but given the previous estimate in 2001 was 500 individuals, the trend would at least appear to be going in the right direction.
The biggest concern with the east coast population is that the total number may have fallen below critical mass, whereby there are now insufficient Australian Grey Nurse Sharks for the overall population to actually recover and the New South Wales sharks are listed as Critically Endangered, while the Queensland animals are classified as Endangered.
The Australian Grey Nurse Shark – West Coast Population
The size of the west coast population is unknown… However anecdotal evidence indicates that the west coast population of the Australian Grey Nurse Shark is in a better situation than the one on the east coast.
This is mainly because the intense persecution that happened in the east was not repeated in the west, but commercial fishing practices have had a significant impact and the western population is listed as Vulnerable.