Tracking Harbour sharks, it's no bull

02/02/2010:   State Government scientists are another step closer to unlocking the mysterious underwater world of Sydney's sharks following the successful tagging of three bull sharks in Sydney Harbour, NSW Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan said today.

"This week has proved a highly successful one with three male bull sharks caught, tagged with internal acoustic tags and safely released," Minister Whan said.

"Our team of Industry & Investment NSW (I&I NSW) shark experts have been fishing the waters of Sydney Harbour several nights a week for months in an effort to locate and tag sharks swimming within their Sydney Harbour habitat.

"A 2.76 metre bull shark was tagged west of the Harbour Bridge on Thursday 21 January, another 2.57 metre bull shark was tagged on the same night and a third 2.35 metre bull shark was tagged in the Parramatta River on Sunday 24 January.

"They are now being monitored by a network of 45 acoustic listening stations within the Harbour."

The Sydney Harbour Shark tagging research project forms part of the NSW Government's wider scientific guidelines for minimising the risk of shark attack.

Each tag has its own unique ID code and a transmitting life of ten years which can be detected by the network of acoustic listening stations deployed throughout Sydney Harbour and along the coast of NSW.

Records of the sharks' movements will be downloaded from listening stations in autumn.

I&I NSW shark scientist Dr Amy Smoothey said the tags register the migratory paths and natural movements of the animals to determine if there are any potentially dangerous areas in Sydney Harbour.

"The public should not be alarmed at the presence of bull sharks in the Harbour, the fact of the matter is the Harbour is their domain and sharks have been frequenting harbour waters long before bathers," Dr Smoothey said.

"Contrary to popular belief shark numbers are not on the rise in NSW, they continue to be commercially fished and as such numbers are actually on the decline.

"What this information does is assists us in increasing our understanding of these animals and contributes to the number of shark safety initiatives the NSW Government has in place including the successful Shark Meshing Program and the SharkSmart safety campaign."

The Sydney Harbour program is part of a wider research project of movement and habitat-use of sharks along the NSW coast.

"This wider tagging program has provided some very interesting data to date.

"Information from one shark tagged last year showed that over a 14 day period it inhabited Sydney Harbour but then exited, travelling to Newcastle before returning to the Harbour.Over that time the shark travelled more than 300km in total, most of which was at night."

Swimmers can follow some simple common sense tips to reduce their risk of an encounter with a shark.

These include not swimming at dusk and dawn, avoiding swimming alone and avoid murky water.

More information can be found at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/info/sharksmart

via Industry and Investment NSW