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Baby Sharks Set Free At Sydney Beach


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Baby sharks set free at Sydney beach

Captive-bred wobbegong sharks have been released into the wild at a Sydney beach in an experiment to learn more about them.

The seven young sharks, raised at Sydney Aquarium and now 80 centimetres long, were fitted with internal and external tagging devices before being released at Shelly Beach in the northern suburb of Manly today.

Charlie Huveneers from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, who is conducting the study, has fitted six wild wobbegongs with similar devices and has been monitoring them since the beginning of the year.

Underwater receivers in the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve next to the beach will monitor the sharks' movements and determine whether they remain in the area.

The study, supported by the NSW Government, is the first in Australia to compare the behaviour of wild and captive-bred sharks.

"We're going to release the wobbegongs and tag some wobbegongs from the wild, and we'll be able to compare the movements and migration to see if those [captive] wobbegongs behave naturally," Dr Huveneers said.

Surprisingly little was known about the sharks despite frequent sightings by divers and a history of commercial fishing of wobbegongs, he said.

"Wobbegong" is an Aboriginal word meaning "beard," referring to the shaggy growths around the sharks' mouths. Wobbegongs can reach up to three metres in length and tend to bite people only when disturbed.

Their tendency to dwell near the sea floor, in corals and crevices, sabotaged a similar experiment in Port Stephens.

In that effort, researchers used only external tags and were unable to determine whether the sharks had left the area or whether the tags had been broken off.

Claudette Rechtorik, co-ordinator of the Sydney Aquarium Conservation Fund, said the Sydney experiment was a good move for the environment and for the sharks.

"At the end of the day, sharks get a really bad rap," she told reporters.

"Sharks are suffering declines all over the world and we need to raise awareness of sharks and their role in the ecosystem and that they're not trying to harm us," she told reporters.



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