Species count is not an exact science

The grey nurse shark continues to attract media attention as the debate continues about how many of the critically endangered species remain in NSW waters.

Megan Kessler, one of the authors of the Nature Conservation Council’s discussion paper on Economic Justification for Establishing Marine Sanctuaries for Grey Nurse Sharks in NSW was interviewed on ABC South East radio earlier this week.

During her interview with Tim Holt, Ms Kessler said there were between 416 to 461 grey Nurse Sharks left in NSW waters.

Ms Kessler also maintained that the major cause for the decline in grey nurse shark numbers has been and continues to be primarily from recreational and commercial fishing.

Ms Kessler was contacted by Narooma News and asked how she determined the number of grey nurse sharks to be 416 – 461. She said that those figures were provided by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

A spokesperson for the Minister of Primary Industries said it obtained shark number information from tagged sharks, scuba divers and observation by officers of the Department of Primary Industries.

Narooma News also contacted a spokeswoman from the NSW Department of Fisheries who said it obtained its information about grey nurse shark numbers in NSW from the Biological Conservation Journal, Volume 119, Issue 3, October 2004, pages 341 – 350.

Interestingly the journal says grey nurse sharks “are an inshore, coastal dwelling species and were severely depleted by spearfishing in the 1960’s.”

Narooma Ports Committee chairman, Phil Creagh said, “Marine science is not a factual science.”

“The selective gathering of facts leads to flawed results,” he said.

In 2003 the NSW Fisheries department commissioned Dr John Stevens of the CSIRO, an acknowledged marine expert to report on and review submissions received on Grey Nurse Sharks.

Dr Stevens completed the report in November 2003 and to date the Department of Primary Industries and NSW Fisheries have not released the findings.

Source: Narooma News (Australia)