Great White Shark Nursery Filmed in Extremely Rare Footage

Extremely rare footage showing of a great white shark nursery has been filmed off the coast of Australia.

After years of searching, shark experts stumbled upon the nursery ground while filming a documentary, Return to the Lair of the Great White, for the Discovery Channel last year.

Craig O'Connell, founder of O'Seas Conservation Foundation and wildlife presenter for Shark Week, captured footage was filmed during the expedition, but it was not included in the documentary.

O'Connell told Newsweek that scientists have been searching for the nursery ground for quite some time, with little to no success. This makes the footage incredibly rare.

He had been assisting long-time diver and shark expert Marc Payne in searching for the nursery ground, in what they thought was a "near impossible mission." Payne had dedicated the last decade to searching for the nursery.

Shark nurseries are normally found in shallow seas or protected bays, where pups are protected away from predators until they can survive on their own.

The great white shark is an endangered species. Their numbers have been declining for decades. They are a long-lived species that have a low reproductive rate, making them vulnerable when individuals are lost. The sharks are hunted for their fins and teeth, and are often caught as bycatch by commercial fisheries.

Great white shark
A picture from the dive shows a juvenile great white shark up close. Dr Craig O'Connell

There are an estimated 8,000 great white sharks off Australia's coastlines, with just over 2,000 of these being adults. Understanding where great white sharks reproduce can help conservationists better protect the species.

In O'Connell's footage, a juvenile white shark can be seen swimming past the camera. In a Twitter thread about the sighting he said that at first, they thought this was just a fleeting glimpse.

However, this transitioned into numerous close passes with other great white shark pups, meaning that the nursery ground must be very close by, if not on that very spot.

For an area to be considered a great white shark nursery ground, juvenile sharks must be seen there often, remain there for an extended period of time, and repeatedly use the area over several years.

O'Connell said that for the area to be confirmed as a great white nursery, they will need more funding and research. More specifically, he said that these sharks would need to be tagged to prove that they are using the spot long-term.

Payne told Newsweek: "The reason these nurseries are so difficult to find is not because of it being rare but the lack [of] geographical clues ... it is a big ocean out there. To find them we needed to go back to the bottom of the food chain and work our way back to the top.

"I don't think we would of been able to achieve this without my knowledge of the habitat and the amazing support of [some local] commercial fisherman."

The nursery discovery plays a vital role in understanding the great white shark population in Western Australia, Payne said. "[This] sets a baseline that can be used to monitor population, movements, cycles and changes over time. Because the location is so remote it also sets the perfect scientific comparison with other more exploited areas."