Grey Nurse Shark rescued from fishing gaff in Byron Bay
Contributed by Simon
In our own backyard we had a real exciting diving/shark story. A female Grey
Nurse Shark had been sighted for about a week swimming around Julian Rocks in
Byron Bay with what looked like a fishing gaff sticking out of its mouth. (Photo of Grey Nurse Shark swimming with gaff in its mouth by John Natoli)
injury was reported to authorities and yesterday Seaworld and Marine Parks authorities
mounted a rescue mission to extract this gaff from the shark. And unbelievably
so they succeeded with their mission, saving one of less than 500 remaining
sharks - and a female too - from certain death by starvation.
Here is the story of the shark rescue mission, written by the underwater videographer
Simon Hartley who was on-site when it all happened!
"I joined Sue and big Mark (from the Byron Bay Dive Centre) and (to avoid
missing anyone) the Seaworld crew, Marine Parks and Fisheries aboard the Seaworld
boat this morning for a rescue attempt. My job was videographer for the underwater
part of the operation. All of the shark wrangling was done by Seaworld staff.
I'm please to announce that the shark was successfully caught and a large fishing
gaff removed. A satellite tag was attached to monitor the sharks progress over
the next few days. Fingers crossed. Diver please look out for this shark and
report any sightings. It is the only shark with a satellite tag (attached to
the right hand side of the animal just behind the dorsal fin).
I was really impressed with the professionalism of the Seaworld crew and the
way they got on and got the job done. I don't think I'd have been able to lasso
a shark on the first go, they had all the gear and the whole operation ran like
Catching the shark
Mark led us straight to the shark on the first dive. It was in sight within
a couple of minutes of descending. One diver had a large metal pole with lasso
attached and two other divers trailed behind managing the rope.
I don't think I captured the moment the shark was caught, it happened very
quickly and we (photographers) had been asked to hang back to avoid spooking
the shark. The lasso went over the head of the shark and secured itself between
the last gill slit and pectoral fins.
From that point on the fight was on to get the shark under control. Obviously
there were some tense moments as the shark fought to get away. Eventually it
calmed down enough to start feeding it into a purpose built plastic cage that
would enable it to be held securely and safely and lifted onto the boat. The
techniques and equipment used today date back to when they used to catch and
display sharks. Perfect for this sort of operation.
shark was winched onto the deck and placed in a large tank where it could be
provided with oxygenated water and worked on.
I didn't see too much of this part (stayed in my dive gear and out of the
way) but Sue and Mark took some photo's for me on my little camera.
A plastic pipe was placed around the gaff to open the sharks jaws and allow
a vet to reach down inside the stomach and remove the hook. It was a difficult
operation and took quite a while.
Antibiotics were administered once the hook was removed, samples were taken
and the satellite tag was attached. The tag will automatically detach if the
shark dies (to alert fisheries) but if it survives it will continue to monitor
it's movements for a few days.
Nick Otway was saying the shark wasn't bleeding which was a good sign. I think
the whole operation took close to half an hour but I could be wrong.
The shark was placed in a sling and returned to the water. We were asked to
follow the shark for a while and make sure it was OK. When the sling was opened
the shark swam out fairly sluggishly as you would expect. It didn't look well
(pale and eyes looked odd) but swam off gradually from where we were anchored,
across the nursery to the north.
about the turtle trench the shark made a bee line for the surface (near the
codhole mooring) and took a big gulp of air. Too fast for me to follow with
my drysuit. It then descended again and started heading toward the codhole.
Anticipating where it might be going I put on a burst of speed (paid for it
later) and got some footage of the shark coming out of the trench wide of the
codhole and disappearing out to the east (past the GNS listening station).
I may have caught a brief glimpse later as I ascended but wasn't sure. I was
pretty much spent. All the CO2 I'd built up in the swim and lack of sleep caught
up with me and I started to feel really anxious. Gave one of the others the
thumbs up and ascended to a comfortable depth for the long swim against current
back to the boat (curse that drysuit drag). Everyone was over the moon but the
Seaworld guys and Mark got on with the next job (replacing listening stations).
Matt ferried us back to the beach in the Marine Parks boat.
Seaworld have the footage I took so should be something in the media next
few days. If anyone has the opportunity to record any press coverage (tomorrow
night at the earliest) I'm really keen to get a copy for marine awareness presentations
shark talk I'm working on.
The attached photo's show the plastic pipe inserted to help with the removal
of the gaff and the gaff itself (look how long it was and how much was inside
the shark!!). The plastic cover was attached to help with the removal. The gaff
itself had a very sharp end apparently."