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Vital Piece Of Marine Research Technology Found On

Ken A

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A NSW North Coast resident has unwittingly assisted with a ground-breaking marine science research project after stumbling across a vital piece of technology on a Crowdy Head beach.

Harrington Waters resident Gordon Hoare found a high-tech electronic “pop-up” tag, which had been recording data on the underwater movements of a grey nurse shark off the NSW coast for three months.

The tag was part of a research project to reveal important information about where the shark travelled – including water depth, light levels and temperature.

It was fitted to a female grey nurse shark nicknamed “Tammie” at Fish Rock off South-West Rocks on 11 November 2003, and pre-programmed to detach and float to the surface in February this year.

Mr Hoare said the tag caught his eye because it was such an unusual shape, but he was thrilled to find out about its real significance.

“I had it on my bookshelf at home, and a mate scratched away some algae to find the tag with a NSW Fisheries (now the NSW Department of Primary Industries) contact number to call,” Mr Hoare said.

“We spend so much time on the beach here. It’s nice to be a little part of an important project like this.”

NSW Department of Primary Industries’ (DPI) Chief Scientist, Steve Kennelly, said the tags were programmed to begin transmitting data back to the satellite once they floated to the ocean surface.

“Unfortunately in this instance, rough seas and a five-metre swell reduced the amount of data that could be initially transmitted to the satellite and relayed to DPI researchers,” Dr Kennelly said.

“By finding this tag and returning it to DPI, the remaining data can now be recovered.

“The community has a very important role to play in our marine research – the coastline and oceans are too vast for scientists and their support staff to monitor entirely alone.

“We often use tagging or other forms of identification as a useful way of helping to protect marine life – ranging from sharks, down to lobsters, mulloway or even prawns.

“We will be giving Mr Hoare a $100 reward for finding the tag, and congratulate him on his enthusiasm for this important research work.

“In 1984 the grey nurse shark became the first shark species in the world to be given protection when the NSW government declared it “protected”.

“In 2000, the status was upgraded to “endangered”. Previous research led to the declaration of 10 grey nurse shark critical habitat sites along the coast – key feeding and breeding areas for the shark.”

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