Shark Grey Nurse
Note: Records closed since 1977

An endangered species

Grey nurse sharks are listed as an endangered species under NSW law. The east coast population is also listed as critically endangered under Commonwealth law. Due to overfishing in past decades, the number of grey nurse sharks in NSW waters has declined significantly.The species was protected in 1984 and subsequently listed as an endangered species. Today their numbers are so low that the species remains in danger of becoming extinct. Despite their fierce appearance, grey nurse sharks are not known to be aggressive towards humans. They are a passive species with teeth designed for capturing prey such as fish and rays. They are typically found in coastal inshore waters around rocky reefs and boulder or sand filled gutters in 15–40m of water. Grey nurse sharks gather to feed, mate and pup at a small number of locations with these characteristics along the NSW coast. These locations are called ‘aggregation sites’. The sharks spend extensive periods of time at these sites, many of which are also popular fishing and diving locations.

In 2003 ten aggregation sites along the NSW coast were declared as ‘critical habitat’ as these sites are essential for the survival of the species. Special fishing and diving rules apply in critical habitats. Many critical habitat sites have also been protected in marine parks and aquatic reserves, resulting in recent changes to fishing and diving rules. Several other significant aggregation sites also occur in Commonwealth waters off the NSW coast. This brochure presents a summary of recreational fishing and diving rules at grey nurse shark aggregation sites within aquatic reserves, marine parks, Commonwealth marine reserves and critical habitats. The rules applying to each of these sites vary and fishers and divers should take the time to familiarise themselves with the regulations at each site. The fishing regulations outlined here apply to recreational fishing and diving only. Commercial fishers should consult the relevant Marine Park User Guide, NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994, Fisheries Management (General) Regulation 2002 and relevant share management plan regulation.
Grey nurse sharks and fishing

All line fishing methods that use hooks have the potential to harm grey nurse sharks. Grey nurse sharks will take baited hooks and can also become hooked if they take a fish being played on line fishing gear regardless of whether bait or artificial lures have been used. However, the use of wire trace for bottom fishing and setlines has been identified as the most harmful fishing method to grey nurse sharks. Many sharks can be seen with fishing gear, such as hooks, caught in their jaws and line trailing from their mouth and gills. Autopsies of grey nurse sharks have found that hooks can become embedded in the throat and stomach, and can puncture the shark’s large liver. This can lead to bacterial infection, septicaemia (blood poisoning) and ultimately death.
What should I do if I catch a grey nurse shark?

Fishers may accidentally catch a grey nurse shark while fishing for other species. If you catch a grey nurse shark, you must release it carefully causing the least possible harm:

* Bring the shark in as quickly as possible to minimise stress.
* Try not to lift it out of the water as this can cause internal damage.
* Cut the line as close to the hooked area as possible. However, if the risk to your own personal safety is significant, please do not attempt to carry out this action.

Circle hook (left) J-Hook (right)


To reduce the chances of hooking or harming a grey nurse shark, fishers should:

* Avoid berlying up-current of aggregation sites.
* Avoid fishing with wire trace or at night near aggregation sites.
* Consider trolling or using fly or artificial lures as an alternative to bait.
* Use non-offset circle hooks (see photo) to reduce the risk of gut hooking.
* Consider changing your location if you accidentally hook a grey nurse shark.

What can I do?

Take a moment to study this guide and familiarise yourself with:

* Identification features of the grey nurse shark
* Diving regulations and Code of Conduct
* The fishing regulations at aggregation sites.

Significant penalties apply

* $2,500 on the spot fines apply for harming, buying, selling or possessing a grey nurse shark with maximum penalties of $220,000.
* $500 on the spot fines apply for breaking fishing or diving rules in critical habitat areas with maximum penalties of $11,000.

Information courtesy of

Shark - Grey Nurse