A critically endangered Grey Nurse shark has been rescued in the waters just off of Maroubra Beach, located in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, Australia.
According to the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, “[t]he distressed shark was initially reported by local diver, Peter Simpson, while diving at Magic Point, off Marouba Beach, which is home to one of a small and ever-dwindling number of Grey Nurse Shark colonies, on the east coast of Australia.” Three marine life specialist teams swiftly moved into action, consisting of staff from the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, aquarists at the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, and veterinarian Rob Jones, from the Department of Primary Industries.
The head and gills of the ”1.5m long juvenile shark” were tightly entangled in industrial strength elastic cord. The shark was “facing a slow and painful death, with the cord continually tightening as the young animal grew in size.” Although, they knew that the mission could be dangerous, the team was determined to carry out the intervention as quickly as possible.
“A suitable vessel was secured for the operation and soon after arriving in the area the rescue team located the shark at depth and encouraged it into a special plastic ‘sock,’ from where they were able to raise the animal to the surface where Dr. Jones was able to remove the rope and administer antibiotics,” said the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary. “The animal was then released back into the ocean with a vastly increased chance of survival.”
Rob Townsend, Life Sciences Manager at Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, played a critical role in providing treatment to the shark. “Today was an opportunity to provide life-saving treatment to a critically endangered animal in desperate need of intervention. There is believed to be around 1500 Grey Nurse Sharks left on the coast of Australia, so it is obviously frustrating to see a beautiful animal like this caught up in rope as a direct result of human carelessness,” said Townsend. With so few sharks left around Australia, the successful rescue operation not only saved one animal’s life, but it also benefited the rest of the shark species in the area.
“Here at the Sanctuary and across all Sea Life aquariums, we are unfortunately acutely aware of the issues relating to pollution in the harbour, and this is just another example of an innocent animal – critically endangered at that – being affected. This shark was extremely lucky to be spotted and in turn assisted, however there are many other marine animals that are not so lucky and perish as a direct result of pollution such as drift nets, plastic and indeed ropes in our oceans,” Townsend said.
Department of Primary Industries Senior Research Scientist, Dr. Nick Otway said that the NSW Government remains committed to the protection of the species. Dr. Otway praised the rescue team by saying, “I would like to commend the professionalism and dedication of the team rescuing this young shark, this rescue was a significant operation from everyone involved.”
If people would respect the oceans, and the lives of its inhabitants, incidents such as this would not occur. When the exploitation, and consumption of the ocean’s magnificent creatures ceases, the waters will once again be abundant with marine life, and the ecosystem will be working as nature intended.