The conservation of the Australian Grey Nurse shark is very much work in progress and much needs to be done to ensure the survival of the species.
But it is highly likely that it would now be too late to save the Grey Nurse from extinction if not for the efforts of Australian diving icons Ron and Valerie Taylor.
They were among the first to realize that rather than allowing the hunting to be continued and encouraged, the conservation of the Australian Grey Nurse Shark was the priority.
Ron, a former world spearfishing champion who passed away in 2012, once told me that when they first started spear fishing back in the late 1950’s both he & Valerie were utterly convinced that the Grey Nurse was a man-eater.
However, over time as they moved more into scuba diving, they came to understand that the Grey Nurse was relatively harmless to man and by the mid 60’s were both actively campaigning for it’s protection.
Ron highlighted two key events that helped to turn the tide of opinion, with the first being enlisting the help of Australian game fishing legend Peter Goadby.
Goadby added significant weight to the conservation argument by confirming that the Grey Nurse was not a game shark at all.
Game fishermen in the late 1960’s were not exactly known known for their predisposition towards the environment or conservation…
So having a well-known personality like Peter Goadby on the side of the Grey Nurse was a huge coup.
The second event was the film Ron & Val made in 1973 called the Vanishing Grey Nurse, which went to air as part of a series of 13 thirty-minute documentaries made for Channel 9 called Ron & Val Taylor’s Inner Space. The film was the first to challenge the public’s perception of the Grey Nurse & introduce the reality of the situation and it played a significant role in changing public opinion.
The fight for the protection and conservation of the Grey Nurse Shark was helped by numerous other people, many of whom went to great lengths, and in 1984 a major breakthrough was achieved when New South Wales formerly declared the Grey Nurse as ‘vulnerable’ – making it the first protected shark in the world.
The lead of New South Wales was eventually followed in Queensland, Western Australia & Tasmania with fisheries legislation to protect the Grey Nurse, when it was listing as ‘critically endangered’ under Australian Federal Government Commonwealth legislation.
The Swiss based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has also listed it as vulnerable, meaning the Grey Nurse faces a high risk of endangerment in the wild – one step down from high risk of extinction in the wild.