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Grey nurse shark

Latin name: Carcharias taurus

Areas: | Australia |

IUCN Red List conservation status

About: Grey nurse shark

Grey nurse sharks spend significant periods of time at aggregation sites where they gather to feed, mate, gestate and pup. Six aggregation sites have been located in Queensland but more need to be discovered and protected to ensure the survival of the species.

Sue Sargent

Conservation Partnerships Manager

An image relating to Grey nurse shark

The grey nurse shark (also known as the sand tiger shark) is found around the coasts of tropical to temperate oceans worldwide, although populations are becoming increasingly isolated.

Reaching up to 3.2 metres in length, it has a stocky build, flattened head and characteristic, fang-like teeth that protrude even when its mouth is shut.

Grey nurse shark facts:

  • Although it might look fearsome, the grey nurse shark is harmless and placid
  • Grey nurse sharks have the lowest reproductive rate of any shark species, breeding just once every two years
  • This species is thought to be the only shark that controls its buoyancy by gulping air at the surface and storing this in its stomach

The grey nurse shark’s low reproductive rate and aggregating behaviour makes it particularly vulnerable to threats from human activities. Despite its protected status, the grey nurse shark is still illegally hunted in some countries for its flesh, fins and oil. Beach safety-nets, accidental capture and coastal degradation also take their toll on this species.

Globally classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN, the grey nurse shark is considered Critically Endangered in east Australian waters.

Fauna & Flora International is working with local government and partners in south-east Queensland, Australia, on a grey nurse shark research and community engagement programme.

This programme has two elements; the first is a community-based photographic identification and monitoring project, which is gathering information on grey nurse shark numbers, movements and distribution.

The second is focusing on the identification and protection of sites where pregnant grey nurse sharks aggregate, in order to help protect the species during this vulnerable stage of its life-cycle.

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