Large groupings have been spotted in a popular dive site off Australia’s East Coast.
Divers have noticed an increased number of pregnant grey nurse sharks massing around Wolf Rock just off Rainbow Beach.
Carley Kilpatrick, conservation officer with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service was shocked by the number of sharks in the area:
It's only been about the last nine or 10 years we've seen more females using this site, but this year has been a stand-out.
Researchers have speculated that half of Queensland’s pregnant grey nurse sharks are circulating in the same spot.
We could have up to a couple of hundred sharks there that we're not seeing all at one time, we're seeing 50 to 100 now in one dive.
The grey nurse shark is a gentler species of shark, even being referred to as the ‘Labrador of the sea”.
According to experienced diver James Nelson, the grey nurse isn’t to be feared:
They're not dangerous, but really what you want to do is not spook them … you slowly approach them so that you can have a nice interaction with them, they’re very kind of majestic and peaceful animals. They can be quite inquisitive and you can get really up close and personal with them, so it's a pretty amazing experience.
Since the 1960s the grey nurse shark has dropped in numbers. Fisherman targeted the grey nurse for a long time drastically reducing the species. Efforts to protect the shark have improved dramatically over the last decade, but according to Dr Kilpatrick there are still only 1,500 grey nurse sharks left in Queensland waters.
But Dr Kilpatrick believes the numbers are growing, as seen in areas like Wolf Rock. Though there are no accurate numbers to support her theory.
The biodiversity and the biomass of species at this site is going through the roof, to be honest, while there's no science to back that, every year we are seeing an increase in all sorts of species and particularly the number of pregnant female sharks gestating at this site.
Hopefully in the next decade or so the grey nurse shark will be removed from the critically endangered list.
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