Diving With Grey Nurse Sharks And Contributing to Science
Updated: Apr 13, 2020
We were in the beautiful Narooma, in New South Wales for an epic dive at Montague Island. The Seaside town is about five hours South of Sydney on the East Coast of Australia and Montague Island is just a short 15 minute boat ride out.
The Island is very special for it's wildlife, and it attracts a tourists for diving, fishing and snorkelling. It is home to a resident population of Seals and Penguins (although the Penguins are a lot harder to spot than the playful and photo-bombing seals are). Lucky divers are treated to sightings of Turtles at certain points in the year, but also under the waves on the Island is the very beautiful Grey Nurse Sharks.
This population of Grey Nurse Sharks is part of a larger East Coast population, that is critically endangered. Historically killed due to the belief that they were man-eaters, because they are so large, the numbers of this population are at critically low numbers.
As well as diving with the seals and Sharks, we are also putting our dive to good use, if we can, and sending in our go pro and camera footage to a citizen science programme called Spot A Shark.
This programme identifies sharks from their photographs, so that a bank of information about the population here, including numbers and migration can be generated. This information is a vital to the conservation of these sharks, as understanding population dynamics can help inform policies on their protection. Generating positive and eco-friendly ways to earn income for local communities involving the sharks is also another great way to ensure their on going protection.
Lee has dived with these Sharks many times, contributing photos to the Spot A Shark Programme along the way. He says the best way to really be able to enjoy the sharks and to cause least impact is to simply stay close to on the bottom and let them cruise past you. Never try to touch or get close to the sharks, or any marine animals when diving. They are completely safe to dive with, only eating small bottom dwelling crustaceans and fish.
We head out with the incredible Underwater Safaris. It's a really important aspect of ethical diving, to choose dive operators that you know are environmentally conscious, and do the right thing.
A dive on Montague is stunning, and understandably incredibly popular, with divers on our boat from a range of countries, all drawn to the Island. On our first dive we see Port Jackson Sharks, Bango Sharks and lots and lots of Seals. The Seals are absolutely hilarious to dive with, and they are inquisitive, playful and cheeky, earning them the nickname of sea puppies.
Our second dive takes us to the grounds where Grey Nurse Sharks are more likely to be spotted, and when we get down there, we are not disappointed. Through the murky water, we are treated to a slow moving, yet retreating tale of a huge Grey Nurse Shark. It is trailed by fish, and heads off into the Blue. It doesn't take long for it to return and we stay close to the bottom and still and let the beautiful moment enrapture us. Seeing a huge 3.5 metre Shark cross our paths is utterly intoxicating. We get some footage, that we hope can be used and head back to the boat via the seals!
Once we're back to shore, we check over our footage. The spot a shark programme needs full length photographs of the Grey Nurse Sharks, to be able to properly ID the photo. They check for scars, spots and other characteristic information on the individual. We follow through the process of logging our dive and input the photographs. I am taking a screen shot from my go pro footage that you can view on our Youtube Channel. Here's a close up!
Hopefully, our dive was not only completely mindblowing and inspirational for us, but can really give something back in terms of science, which is totally amazing. There is a chance my own footage does not show enough of the full shark. But I hope so.
If you're interested in diving at Montague, we recommend Underwater Safari's!
If you'd like to contribute to Spot A Shark, there website is here: