Grey nurse shark bites spearfisher at Tomaree

Story to tell: Max Carey shows the area of his arm where he was bitten by a grey nurse shark at Tomaree. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Story to tell: Max Carey shows the area of his arm where he was bitten by a grey nurse shark at Tomaree. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

That was the scenario that Max Carey found himself in while participating in a spearfishing competition at Tomaree last week.

The 18-year-old and his father Aaron Carey had noticed about six grey nurse sharks lingering in their vicinity while they were fishing early in the afternoon.

In an attempt to divert the sharks’ interest they deposited their catch in their boat before returning to the water at about 2pm.

Mr Carey was swimming about 30 metres from the boat when he felt pressure on his arm – applied by a three-metre female grey nurse shark.

“I didn’t see it … It came from behind and underneath me,” he said.

“It was only on me for a second and let go. Thankfully I was wearing a wetsuit and it didn’t shake around.”

His father, who was also in the water, helped him back to the boat and drove him to the Tomaree Medical Centre.

Mr Carey’s wound, consisting of two rows of neat puncture marks, did not require stitches. Instead, he was treated with antibiotics.

“They have a lot of bacteria on their teeth so the biggest concern was infection,” he said.

Calling card: The bite mark on Mr Carey's arm. He was treated with antibiotics as a precaution against infection. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

Calling card: The bite mark on Mr Carey’s arm. He was treated with antibiotics as a precaution against infection. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

Mr Carey said he was aware of the general risk of spearfishing around sharks, however, he was still surprised by the attack.

“Every sport has its risks,” he said.

“The only other time I have had trouble with a shark was when a bull shark chased me to the shore.

“We knew they were around. Grey nurses are normally pretty tame; I guess that shark was a bit rowdy.”

The grey nurse shark, also known as the sand tiger shark or spotted ragged-tooth shark, can grow to 3.6 metres long.

They are often found just above the sea bed or in deep, sandy-bottomed gutters or rocky caves, such those around Broughton Island or Tomaree headland.

Despite its fearsome appearance, grey nurse sharks are not generally considered a threat to swimmers or divers unless they are provoked.

Current threats to the species include being caught as bycatch other shark fisheries, recreational fishing and also beach meshing.

Fisheries research conducted in the Port Stephens estuary in 2017 found the area contained more sharks than previously thought.

Close encounter: A grey nurse shark with an electronic tag attached to its fin swimming at Port Stephens. Picture: Department of Primary Industries.

Close encounter: A grey nurse shark with an electronic tag attached to its fin swimming at Port Stephens. Picture: Department of Primary Industries.

Many of them were found in waters less than 100 metres away from swimmers at places such as Fly Point.

The majority of the sharks in the estuary were detected between October and January, with the largest number occurring in November.

Juvenile sharks were found closer to the shore.

 

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