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Dramatic Wild Shark Rescue

  • Friday 21st February 2014

In stark contrast to the shark cull currently taking place off the coast of Western Australia, here in Sydney a specialist team comprised of staff from SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary and the Department of Primary Industries, carried out an ambitious and complicated rescue of an injured critically endangered Grey Nurse Shark off Maroubra Beach in the city's eastern suburbs.

Facing certain death

With its head and gills tightly entangled in industrial strength elastic cord, the 1.5m long juvenile shark was facing a slow and painful death, with the cord continually tightening as the young animal grew in size.

The distressed shark was initially reported by local diver Peter Simpson while diving at Magic Point off Maroubra Beach, which is home to one of a small and ever-dwindling number of Grey Nurse Shark colonies on the east coast of Australia.

SEA LIFE to the rescue!

Despite the risks associated with such an ambitious rescue the team of experienced aquarists from both SEA LIFE aquariums, assisted by the SEA LIFE Australia and New Zealand vet Rob Jones, were committed to carrying out the intervention as soon as was practically 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. 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 and said, "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 east 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".

Rob continued; "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.

"A significant operation from everyone involved"

Commenting, 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 then praised the rescue team, "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."

Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary is one of Australia's primary sites for Grey Nurse Shark conservation, where two of the seven Grey Nurse Shark residents were born and bred in captivity; one at the Sanctuary itself and the other at SEA LIFE Underwater World Mooloolaba. These breeding efforts are at the heart of SEA LIFE business which operates a strategy of 'Breed, Rescue and Protect'.

Breed, Rescue, Protect

Guests can see and learn more about these fascinating animals and more at the family of SEA LIFE aquarium across Australia and New Zealand:

  • SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
  • Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary
  • SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium
  • SEA LIFE UnderwaterWorld Mooloolaba
  • Kelly Tarlton's SEA LIFE Aquarium

Do you dive at Magic Point?

Magic Point is a popular Sydney dive site. We'd love to hear from anyone who dives at the site and happens to see or even photograph this shark so we can monitor its progress. The wounds on the shark caused by the rope will be clearly visible for a long time, making the animal easily identifiable.

Get in touch with pics and info here:

More About SEA LIFE Conservation