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Ben Cropp's Wild Australia: Vanishing Grey Nurse Sharks
Starring: Ben Cropp

Aspect Ratio: 16:9

Running Time: Approx 52 minutes


Region Encoding: All

TV System: PAL

Chapters:
1. Introduction
2. Shark Hunters
3. About The Shark
4. Catching Alive
5. Habitats
6. Tracking

Synopsis:

Australia’s grey nurse shark population is on a decline, to the brink of extinction. It began in the early 60’s, fed by the false belief that this shark was a man-eater, and, its own physical makeup - a nasty - looking set of ragged teeth.

In the 60’s shark-meshing programs began that snared hundreds of local grey nurse. At the same time the new sport of shark hunting targeted these slow moving sharks that schooled in `shark gutters' off the NSW coast.

Ben Cropp hosts this documentary special, there is no better choice, for Ben was the most famous of the 60’s shark hunters, who then swapped his killer spear for an underwater camera, and began capturing the grey nurse on film instead of a dead trophy.

Of the 57 known shark gutters along the NSW coast where thousands of grey nurse once schooled, the population is now 292 and falling.

The shark’s bizarre natural reproduction also keeps the numbers down. The most advanced embryo in each of the shark’s two uteri eats the remaining embryos - a process known as inter-uterine cannibalism.

Ben Cropp knows these shark haunts well from his old shark hunting days, and re-visits them to film and study their little known behavior.

Within just a few kilometers of Sydney’s Harbour bridge and skyscrapers, Ben locates a surviving family of grey nurse sharks in a hidden cave just metres off shore. Being the first shark species to be protected in Australia, they have returned to an old haunt very close to hordes of bathers and sewerage outfall. A poor choice for survival!

Ben joins a tagging program led by diving scientist Mr Nick Otway, in conjunction with a NSW Fisheries research program. They visit known grey nurse haunts along the NSW coast and South Qld Coast.

Unlike tagging of other sharks that are usually pulled from the water onto the deck of a boat, tagging grey nurse is done gently, because the scientists do not wish to traumatize this pregnant fragile population.

The sharks are captured under water in a unique operation by the divers, and then laid in a floating stretcher to secure the tags. No greater care has ever been given to a shark before.

At the same time as these grey nurse sharks migrate north in the winter, so do other shark species that follow the great balls of baitfish. Just off the skyscraper - lined beach of Surfers Paradise, Ben films an incredible feeding frenzy. Hundreds of sharks circle the baitfish while board riders paddle above, and jet ski riders chase sharks into the shallows.

For the placid and pregnant grey nurse wandering north to pup, such a bizarre circus of humans and sharks would be all too much.
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