Footage of the vet removing the one metre-long gaff from the grey nurse shark's mouth.
Footage of the vet removing the one metre-long gaff from the grey nurse shark's mouth. Voxant Newsroom/BBC News

Byron Bay's most unusual patient

IN DECADES of diving, Simon Hartley has seen far too many grey nurse sharks impaled by hooks.

But what he saw on Saturday defied belief.

Conducting fish surveys for the Byron Underwater Research Group off Cape Byron, the Southern Cross University researcher was shocked to see a three-metre grey nurse shark swimming around with a one metre-long gaff, or hook-ended pole, protruding from its mouth.

Luckily, the close-knit nature of the local diving community and quick action by authorities saw the gaff removed and the female shark released relatively unharmed.

Raw footage of the grey nurse shark having a pole removed from its mouth

Simon was asked by the rescue organisers, Sea World on the Gold Coast, to film the rescue.

“It was brilliant, they did a fantastic job. They had everything there and got in and did the job quickly,” Simon said of Wednesday's rescue.

The State Minister for Primary Industries, Ian Macdonald, said it was an extremely difficult operation.

“A crew of three divers had to catch the shark using a lasso, which was tied around its body,” he said.

“The shark was then encouraged into a perspex tunnel, brought to the surface and lifted on to the boat using a crane. Finally, it was placed into a holding tank where it was examined and the gaff removed.

“A pop-up satellite tag has been attached to the shark so that its movements and recovery can be monitored by scientists.”

Simon said the tag would stay on the shark for about 90 hours and detach itself after that time or if the shark died.

“There's been no signal from the tag, which is a good sign, meaning the shark is still okay,” he said.



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