Sunday, 27 April 2014 02:21

Grey Nurse Sharks - Distribution & Habitat

Grey Nurse Sharks are often observed hovering motionless just above the seabed, in or near deep sandy-bottomed gutters or rocky caves, and in the vicinity of inshore rocky reefs and islands. The species has been recorded at varying depths, but is generally found between 15 m and 40 m. Grey Nurse Sharks have also been recorded in the surf zone, around coral reefs, and to depths of around 200 metres on the continental shelf. They generally occur either alone or in small to medium sized groups, usually of fewer than twenty sharks. Those Grey Nurse Sharks that are observed alone are thought to be moving between aggregation sites.

Grey Nurse Sharks have a broad inshore distribution, primarily in sub-tropical to cool temperate waters around the main continental landmasses. In Australia, Grey Nurse Sharks have been regularly reported from Mooloolaba in southern Queensland around most of the southern half of the continent (excluding the Great Australian Bight), and northward to Shark Bay in Western Australia. The Grey Nurse Shark has been recorded as far north as Cairns in the east, the North West Shelf in the west, and also in the Arafura Sea.

The east coast distribution of Grey Nurse Sharks is now thought to extend from Wolf Rock off Rainbow Beach in Queensland to Montague Island off Narooma in New South Wales. The west coast population of Grey Nurse Sharks is predominantly found in the southwest coastal waters of Western Australia

In NSW, aggregations of Grey Nurse Sharks can be found at reefs off the following locations:

  • Byron Bay
  • Brooms Head
  • Solitary Islands
  • South West Rocks
  • Laurieton
  • Forster
  • Seal Rocks
  • Port Stephens
  • Sydney
  • Bateman's Bay
  • Narooma

An aggregation is considered to be 5 or more Grey Nurse Sharks present at the same site at the same time. Known key aggregation sites for Grey Nurse Sharks in Queensland include sites off Moreton and Stradbroke Islands and Wolf Rock off Rainbow Beach. These sites play an important role in pupping and/or mating activities, as Grey Nurse Sharks form regular aggregations at these sites.

If you happen to spot a Grey Nurse while you are diving, it is very important that you let us know about it. We have included 2 reporting forms for you to download and print with all the information you need to help identify sexes etc. For reporting Grey Nurse in QLD please use THIS FORM and for reporting NSW sightings, please use THIS FORM. By taking the time to full in these forms, you are helping to gather more vital information about their habits and locations.

Relatively little is known about the migratory habits of Grey Nurse Sharks in Australian waters. Evidence suggests migrational movement, probably in response to water temperatures, up and down the east coast. At certain times of the year Grey Nurse Sharks aggregate according to sex. Male animals predominate northern New South Wales and southern Queensland waters during July to October, while a high proportion of females are dominant in southern NSW from December to May.