A SEA World rescue team has saved the life of an endangered grey nurse shark found at Julian Rocks with a 1m long hook and trace stuck in its mouth.
The team was called in by a volunteer diver from Sundive Byron Bay and the NSW Department of Primary Industries over fears the 2.4m animal would starve to death.
In a complex and dramatic operation, the team had to capture the shark, exhaust it and bring it aboard their boat, Sea World One, so the hook and trace could be surgically removed.
"We feared that the hook and trace, which was over a metre long, would prevent the shark from feeding properly and result in its eventual death by starvation," Sea World director of Marine Sciences Trevor Long said.
"Once the shark had been located, the rescue team was able to secure a rope noose around the body of the shark and tire him out, allowing him to be slowly brought to the surface.
"The rescue was made somewhat more challenging as there was average visibility under water, strong currents in the area, and to top it off, the shark was also quite feisty, putting-up a real fight once it had been roped.
"After the shark had been tired out, it was craned aboard rescue vessel Sea World One and placed in a specially designed 4000 litre tank where he was placed in a dormant state by turning him on his back, ready for the operation.
"The operation involved inserting a large PVC pipe into the shark's mouth to keep it open whilst our vet conducted a delicate procedure to remove the hook, which was lodged in cartilage of the jaw.
"Following the 25 minute operation to remove the hook the shark was released after its identifying marks were recorded.
"With less than 1500 of the critically endangered Grey Nurse Sharks living along the east coast of Australia, every single animal is so important."
The shark was expected to make a full recovery.
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