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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

28 June 2002

Added Protection for the Grey Nurse Shark

The Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today announced the Commonwealth Recovery Plan for the threatened Grey Nurse Shark.

"The development of this recovery plan sets a benchmark in ensuring the protection of this important marine species so that severely depleted populations can return to levels similar to those prior to human impact," Dr Kemp said.

"The Commonwealth Government takes the protection of grey nurse sharks seriously. More than $455,000 has been allocated from the Natural Heritage Trust for activities to protect the species, including a project with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service to identify key grey nurse shark sites in Queensland waters.

"The plan was developed with the assistance of a team of stakeholders including scientists, conservation groups and the fishing industry. It will put in place a range of priority actions, some of which will increase our understanding of the species' biology with others directly addressing threats to its survival.

"One of the reasons a Grey Nurse Shark Recovery Plan is of vital importance is that sharks live a long time, taking four to six years to reach reproductive age. Even then they have a low reproductive rate, producing only one pup every two years on average. This makes it difficult for grey nurse sharks to recover from impacts such as overfishing," Dr Kemp said.

The east coast population of the grey nurse shark is listed as critically endangered, with numbers as low as 500 individuals, and the west coast population is listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

"Grey nurse sharks were thought to be dangerous and large numbers of adults were killed by spear fishers in the 1950s and 1960s and by shark nets on many Australian beaches," Dr Kemp said.

"Despite their fierce appearance, these docile sharks mainly feed on fish, stingrays, other sharks, squids, crabs and lobsters. They are not known to attack humans.

"The actions identified in the Commonwealth plan require similar support by relevant State Governments, as the grey nurse shark is predominantly found in State managed waters. I therefore strongly urge State Governments to adopt similar measures and to work cooperatively with the Commonwealth to protect the grey nurse shark," Dr Kemp said.

The grey nurse shark recovery plan is available on the Internet at

Media contact:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia