Fraser helps grey nurse sharks

Fraser Island was chosen as one of 25 locations for a research expedition to find the aggregation grounds of the endangered grey nurse shark.
Fraser Island was chosen as one of 25 locations for a research expedition to find the aggregation grounds of the endangered grey nurse shark. Contributed

UNDERWATER cameras, audio listening stations and a 23m vessel from Australia Zoo were all part of a project around Fraser Island and other locations over the past two months to help save the critically endangered grey nurse shark.

Researchers took to Fraser Island, Lady Elliot Island and 25 other locations along the Queensland coastline for the Missing In Action project, which wrapped up its first expeditions this month.

Missing In Action is the research arm of the Grey Nurse Shark Watch, a project that was launched earlier this year by international conservation group Flora and Fauna International (FFI).

Grey nurse shark populations on the east coast of Australia are considered critically endangered with less than 1000 left.

FFI Australia executive director Jack Whelan said the gentle species bred only once every two to three years and was almost hunted to extinction in the 1950s.

The information gathered at Fraser Island and other locations will be used to identify critical areas of the coastline for the species at different stages of their life cycle.

FFI hopes to find aggregation sites, where grey nurse sharks go to breed, feed and gestate, with the help of an Australia Zoo vessel designed by Steve Irwin.

The Croc One vessel was designed by the late crocodile hunter for marine wildlife research in remote locations.

FFI are also working with Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, the Burnett Mary Regional Group and Department of Environment and Resource as part of the project.

"The project is a massive exercise in logistics, not only with vessels, equipment, researchers and volunteers, but in terms of funding and supporters," Mr Whelan said.

Topics:  fraser island grey nurse sharks

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