FOR the past six to eight weeks a Grey Nurse Shark has been laboring its way through the waters of Port Stephens with a length of rope wrapped around its tail.
Let’s Go Adventures dive instructor Simon Macks spotted the shark near Broughton Island on Monday.
“We’ve been seeing this shark for six to eight weeks now,” Mr Macks, a diver since 1986, said.
“We see it pretty regularly, maybe every second time we go for a dive we spot it.”
The shark, a critically endangered species, swims around the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park with about a metre-long length of rope trailing behind it.
Mr Macks’ theory on the rope is that the animal was caught by fishermen who either carelessly cut it loose or it struggled to freedom before the binding could be removed.
“It could have been caught by fisherman who roped the tail to pull it in the boat,” he said.
“They could have done that to get their fishing gear out of it mouth, I don’t know.
“If this is the case, pulling it in to unhook it is a good thing.
“I don’t want to suggest they’ve cut it free with the rope still attached; it could have been an accident. The shark could have struggled free before they could take the rope off.”
The Department of Primary Industries, aware of the shark’s condition, made an attempt to free it from the rope in March.
“An exercise was undertaken by a DPI Fisheries dive team last month to remove the rope from the shark, however this was unsuccessful,” a DPI spokesperson said.
“The team is currently collecting genetic samples from Grey Nurse Sharks and will, conditions permitting, conduct another underwater survey next week when an attempt to remove the rope will again be made.
“DPI's Grey Nurse shark experts have not been able to assess the effect of the rope as the shark is very skittish and swims away from divers when they approach the animal.
“Grey Nurse sharks are critically endangered and recreational and commercial fishers are reminded that severe penalties apply for interfering with these sharks.”
Mr Macks said the shark was not a unique case. While diving he has seen other marine creatures in the park bearing the brunt of negligent fishing practices.
“Pretty much every diver we see Grey Nurse Sharks with hooks and metal line hanging out of their mouths,” Mr Macks said.
“It’s other fish as well.
“I saw a sting ray at Salamander Bay the other day with a length of fishing line with a weight coming out of its mouth.
“People need to be more aware when they’re fishing. Things like this are less likely to happen if people were just more aware.”
Port Stephens Examiner