Blind Shark: Brachaelurus waddi

Family: Brachaeluridae
Common name(s)

Nurse Shark, Common Nurse Shark.

Identification

Head broad. Snout short and rounded. Nasal flaps form very long, prominent barbells. Spiracles large. Two high dorsal fins of roughly equal size set well back on body. Origin of first dorsal anterior to pelvic fin insertion.
Dorsal coloration mottled grey/brown with prominent but sometimes indistinct darker saddles and small white spots. Markings fade with age and large adults may display an almost uniform dark grey/brown coloration. Ventrum pale but slightly mottled.

Size

Maximum length 122cm. Size at birth 15-18cm.

Habitat

A temperate/tropical species found on rocky and coral reefs and sea grass beds. Often in surge swept turbid areas. Intertidal to 150m..

Distribution

A common inhabitant of inshore reefs along the east coast of Australia. Found from southern Queensland to southern New South Wales.
Unconfirmed reports from the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Conservation Status

LEAST CONCERN

No detailed information is available on current population trends, however, the blind shark is a relatively common species. It is not targeted commercially or recreationally, but is a regular bycatch of trap fishing in New South Wales. Recent research suggests that it has a limited reproductive potential. It appears to be a hardy species, capable of surviving out of water for extended periods, thus post-capture survivorship may be high. It is popular in the marine aquarium trade although current levels of exploitation are unknown. Some research is required to assess bycatch levels, but the species remains common and likely finds refuge in unfished habitats given its affinity for rocky shorelines and reefs and is therefore assessed as Least Concern.

Citations and References
Kyne, P.M. & Bennett, M.B. 2015. Brachaelurus waddiThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T41732A68610784. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T41732A68610784.en. Downloaded on 27 December 2020.

Reproduction

Aplacental viviparous species (without a yolk-sac placenta). 7-8 pups per litter.

Diet

Feeds on small fishes, crustaceans, squid, and sea anemones.

Behavior

Nocturnal. Juveniles lodge themselves in shallow reef crevices by day. Larger adults rest in caves. In Nelson Bay, NSW. Blind sharks tend to rest out in the open laying on sponges.
The blind shark gets its common name from its habit of closing its eyes when held out of the water.

Reaction to divers

When encountered during the day, blind sharks generally remain motionless or try to bury deeper into their hiding places. At night they can sometimes be closely observed foraging on the reef but they are generally wary.

CAUTION: Divers that have removed resting sharks from crevices have been bitten. There are reports of stubborn blind sharks latching onto diver’s wetsuits and refusing to let go until taken to the surface. Even then they had to have their jaws pried apart. One report of a shark letting go once it was doused in fresh water.

Diving logistics

Blind sharks are regularly encountered by divers in NSW and Queensland. The shallow reefs around South West Rocks are a good place to look. Some of these dives can be done from shore but the best encounters are slightly deeper and require boat access. Green Island is an exceptionally good site that may turn up 4 or 5 Blind Sharks on one dive as well as many wobbegong sharks and grey nurse sharks.

Bait Reef in SW Rocks is also a good place to look and is accessible by boat or from shore if conditions permit. It can be accessed by parking in the grounds of the old jail and swimming out from the rocks. Contact Jon at Fish Rock Dive Centre for more detailed directions.

Byron Bay and Nelson Bay also have accessible populations of Blind Sharks.

Similar species

Colclough’s Shark Very similar but distinguished by lack of markings and more acutely pointed fin tips.