Did you know that in the winter months divers come to Byron Bay to experience diving with the Grey Nurse Sharks that come to the Cape Byron Marine Park around Julian Rocks? Spanish diver Inaki Aizpun, who has been taking divers out to the marine park over the last five years with Sundive, knows that this endangered shark needs all the help it can get to survive.
‘We sometimes encounter grey nurse sharks with a hook and rope in their mouths,’ said Inaki.
‘There is not much we can do for this except cut the line. This time we could see a fishing net coming out of its mouth. I could see that the shark was going to die because the net was stopping it from eating.’
Inaki was concerned that the net in the shark’s mouth might also be attached with a hook, but after an initial tentative tug he was relieved to discover that it wasn’t. After a few attempts he was able to pull the fishing net out of the shark’s mouth.
‘It wasn’t aggressive at all and was trying to cooperate,’ said Inaki enthusiastically.
‘It was a big long net with bait in it. I was so excited and happy and I still remember the eye contact that the shark had with me.’
‘Grey Nurse sharks are harmless and don’t attack humans,’ said Inaki.
The east coast Grey Nurse Sharks are now on the critically endangered list with many being injured and killed by both commercial and recreational fishing.
According to the department of environment and energy , ‘An autopsy of a Grey Nurse Shark in 2000 revealed that the cause of death was the perforation of the stomach wall by numerous small hooks of the type used by recreational fishers.’ It is also noted that shark nets, illegal fishing and accidental capture continue to have an impact on the species.
Inaki also highlighted the fact that over the last two years, when the shark nets that have been in place over the summer, they have had a negative impact on the marine life around Julian Rocks.
‘We saw a decrease in the number of manta rays and we did not spot as many endangered logger-head turtles,’ he said.
During the 2017 shark net trial out of the 145 animals ensnared in the nets 58 were killed including a range of protected species.