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Wolf Rock research project

Image of Wolf Rock, near Double Island Point in Queensland, is a protected grey nurse shark aggregation site.

Wolf Rock, near Double Island Point in Queensland, is a protected grey nurse shark aggregation site.

Background

Wolf Rock, near Double Island Point, in Great Sandy Marine Park one of the most dived grey nurse shark aggregation sites in Queensland. Many people want a ‘diving-with-sharks’ experience.

Image of range testing equipment deployed as can be seen with the buoy in the foreground.

© Amanda Delaforce.

Range testing equipment deployed as can be seen with the buoy in the foreground.

Image of grey nurse sharks at depth around Wolf Rock, near Double Island Point, Queensland.

© Carley Kilpatrick.

Grey nurse sharks at depth around Wolf Rock, near Double Island Point, Queensland.

Wolf Rock in detail

Image of pregnant female grey nurse sharks at boulder country around Wolf Rock.

© Carley Kilpatrick.

Pregnant female grey nurse sharks at boulder country around Wolf Rock.

Wolf Rock, is currently the only known gestation site for the east coast population of grey nurse sharks. Mature females stay here for 9–12 months before heading south to central and southern New South Wales waters to pup and rest for 1 to 2 years.

Image map of Wolf Rock bathymetry (underwater mapping).

© University of Queensland with permission.

Wolf Rock bathymetry (underwater mapping) (view larger image).

Wolf Rock currently has one permit holder (historical use) accessing this site on a commercial basis, which provides for 10 plus 2 divers with one vessel (as per legislation). Additional commercial marine park permits have been approved with specific conditions pending the outcomes of the research. The current use of Wolf Rock by these operators is expected to be very low, in terms of days per year. However, the scenario of large numbers of divers in the water for a large proportion of daylight hours during good weather, with up to four operators, not including dive clubs, who are known to dive here, certainly has the potential to disturb, and possibly displace, these gestating sharks to locations where their key threatening process (fishing) is allowed.

Research methodology for Wolf Rock

  • Record water (and dive) conditions.
  • Analyse monthly commercial operator and club returns.
  • Undertake diver and shark number counts.
  • Undertake photo identification of grey nurse sharks.
  • Carry out acoustic monitoring or grey nurse shark and diver movements.

Acoustic monitoring comprises of five distinct components done in these stages:

Stage 1: range testing of acoustic monitoring equipment

Stage 2: deployment of acoustic monitoring equipment

Stage 3 acoustic tagging of grey nurse sharks and dive leaders (on their buoyancy control device ) to simultaneously track diver and shark movements

Stage 4: equipment retrieval:

  • outer boundary receiver array
  • VPS receiver inner array around Wolf Rock
  • Pinnacles and Round Rock receivers

Stage 5: Data analysis and reporting

  • data analysis and reporting—final stage. In progress expected completion mid-2018.

Stage 1: Range testing of acoustic monitoring equipment

Image of QPWS marine park vessel, CH Thompson, heading out to Wolf Rock for range testing of equipment.

QPWS marine park vessel, CH Thompson, heading out to Wolf Rock for range testing of equipment.

Image of QPWS Rangers standing by for deployment of ropes, chains, floats, 'sync tags' and receivers.

QPWS Rangers standing by for deployment of ropes, chains, floats, 'sync tags' and receivers.

Image of QPWS Rangers setting up the equipment for smooth deployment at Wolf Rock site.

QPWS Rangers setting up the equipment for smooth deployment at Wolf Rock site.

Image of range testing of receivers and equipment underway at Wolf Rock site, with Rainbow Beach coloured sands in the background.

Range testing of receivers and equipment underway at Wolf Rock site, with Rainbow Beach coloured sands in the background.

Stage 2: Deployment of acoustic monitoring equipment at Wolf Rock

Image of cement blocks and receivers ready to be deployed at Wolf Rock.

Cement blocks and receivers ready to be deployed at Wolf Rock.

Image of using the barge and crane to do the heavy lifting at Wolf Rock.

Using the barge and crane to do the heavy lifting at Wolf Rock.

Stage 3: Acoustic tagging of grey nurse sharks

Grey nurse sharks are externally tagged at Wolf Rock and dive leaders attach a tag to their BCDs so we can simultaneously track diver and shark movements.

Image showing researchers collecting genetic samples of the grey nurse sharks in the Wolf Rock area.

© Amanda Delaforce.

Researchers also collected genetic samples of the grey nurse sharks in the Wolf Rock area.

Securing the acoustic tag to the Hawaiian Sling (tagging device).

Image of looking for a suitable shark to tag with the Hawaiian Sling ready.

Looking for a suitable shark to tag with the Hawaiian Sling ready.

Image of diver swimming past the receiver.

Diver swimming past the receiver.

Stage 4: Equipment retrieval

  • outer boundary receiver array
  • VPS receiver inner array around Wolf Rock
  • Pinnacles and Round Rock receivers

Stage 5: Data analysis and reporting

  • data analysis and reporting—in progress, expected completion mid-2018.
Image of QPWS marine park's barge used to retrieve sub-sonic releases from the ocean.

© Amanda Delaforce.

QPWS marine park’s barge used to retrieve sub-sonic releases from the ocean.