The mass stingray bycatch rescue Sea Shelter will never forget 17/02/2020

It all started about midday with a call from a concerned citizen that hundreds of dead and dying animals were washing up on Jimmies Beach in Hawks Nest. This mass bycatch rescue location is about an hours drive from all our volunteers and 4 of them sprung into action preparing the water and oxygen, confirming the location and safely getting there as quickly as possible.

What they found when they arrived was absolutely heart wrenching: hundreds of stingrays, fish and sharks most of them already deceased floating around, not far from all the swimmers enjoying the beach.

Bycatch from an ocean beach haul: professional fishermen use a net that is deployed and retrieved back to a beach. After the haul the unwanted species are tossed back in, they may or may not still be alive after the stress of being caught, dragged from the ocean and sorted.

Next came the slow task of looking for survivors to help. Whilst trying to count and identify the deceased, it fast became clear they would need to be removed from the water so the volunteers could properly assess the species and mass numbers without losing count. It was heartbreaking to also discover the actual fishing event had actually happened the evening before and we could have saved more if we had been alerted earlier. Please save 02 4982 2476 in your phone to call if you see marine life in danger or injured.

Bycatch happens all over the world in many forms, this time we were here. It was very tough for the 5 volunteers, this is what they found:

Already deceased Survived & left at Jimmies beach Survived, very sick and injured, returned to Irukandji for hopeful rehabilitation
2 blue spotted mask rays (1 adult 1 pup) 30 approx Kapala Stingarees 2 brown stingaree
133 Kapala stingarees (4 ejected pups) 1 alive ejected (aborted) stingaree pup
7 common stingarees 16 adult kapala stingarees
1 brown stingaree 1 newly hatched Port Jackson shark pup
1 Sole (Was 24 Kapala however 8 passed away before arrival)
1 pigmy triggerfish
96 toad fish
1 fiddler ray
A bunch more already eaten by the pelicans and other predators

Community support & spreading awareness

“It is the worst of times but it is the best of times because we still have a chance.”

– Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer

This is not the first nor last time this will happen and you can read of another time in the exact same location at Jimmies Beach in the Newcastle Herald HERE:

Sea Shelter along with Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters are huge supporters of the GOOD FISH: APP- Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide which helps everyday citizens from making the wrong seafood choices, a wonderful resource.

Thanks to NBN Television for caring for the environment, they helped us spread awareness by covering this story the next day. You can see us on the News HERE

Following the rescue

Back at Irukandji the surviving who were very much already on their last legs animals were administered with supportive injections and treated into the night. Sadly we continued to lose them over the next few hours and lost most of them within the first 24 hours which we had expected since we only brought the worst of the worst back for treatment.

Now almost a month later we can report we have two lone survivors who are not out of the woods yet. One common stingaree who is eating fairly well and who’s injuries have healed up nicely and the baby Port Jackson shark pup who is not eating well and not gaining enough weight so we don’t have huge hopes for her but we do have all our fingers crossed she will survive this major trauma for her young life and pull through!

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