Divers rescue entangled sharks

THE rescue of three grey nurse sharks entangled in ropes off the Coffs Coast has gained international recognition.

Since vision of the rescues off South Solitary Island was posted online, the divers involved have received praise from international marine preservation groups for their actions.   

After the distressed sharks were seen entangled in ropes, a rescue team of divers acted quickly.

Using a pole designed for whale disentanglement, with sharp scissor style blades, the sharks were approached from behind and the ropes cut free.

Filmed by the crew from Jetty Dive the operation shows the true difficulty of the rescue effort.  

"Whilst it sounds easy, it is not always that simple," Mike Davey, owner of Jetty Dive, said.

 "The first two sharks were very easy, with the pole working great, the third one was more difficult, but after a bit of patience and technique, the shark was released.

The dive team also consisted of Brett Vercoe from the Solitary Islands Marine Park, Steve Dalton from the National Marine Science Centre and Mark Bottcher from Jetty Dive.

"Two of the sharks were entangled with rope around their tails, which is probably an attempt by fishermen to release them from fishing nets," Mr Davey said.   

Given the Coffs Coast fishing fleet respects marine sanctuaries and operates mainly in deep water, it is thought by the rescue party that the sharks may have been roped well south of Coffs Harbour, as grey nurse shark colonies migrate along the coastline.

At the time the entangled sharks were spotted off South Solitary, there were approximately 40 of the endangered sharks in the area.

"We commend the fishermen for making the effort to release the endangered shark, however, the rope that is left around the tail slowly kills the shark by infection.

"The rope becomes heavily coated with organisms such as barnacles which react against the skin," he said.

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