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Scuba divers discover the first white Grey Nurse Shark at Rottnest Island, Western Australia!

a shark in the dark

Video by Alan Chng

WA scuba divers are the first to record a white Grey Nurse Shark sighting! Perth, Western Australia

While diving at Rottnest this week on Friday the 21st of May 2021, the Bucket List Diver crew and scuba divers added and ticked something off their Bucket List they never knew existed here: a hauntingly beautiful white Grey Nurse Shark! The weather forecast is rarely perfect enough for diving this particular site, not only did the stars align allowing the site to be dived, but this special resident appeared and wowed all of the divers.

Cruising the deep waters at around 28 meters, the shark was the smallest there, leading divers to believe it is a young animal. First thought to be an albino grey nurse shark, but closer review has shown shark F217 still has the characteristic faint spots down her sides so likely has what is known as Leucism.

Shark F217 - White Grey Nurse shark

Photograoher: Alan Chng

Are Grey Nurse Sharks Dangerous?

From a physiological point of view, Grey Nurse Sharks look scary to some, but are known to be very passive and their jaws are not designed for capturing larger prey. Our earlier animal feature discusses some of the misconceptions around these beautiful creatures and how they are now protected because of over fishing and trophy hunting.

How do I tell the difference between an Albino Grey Nurse Shark and a Grey Nurse Shark with Leucism?

Alexandra Hoschke of Aqua Research and Monitoring Services tells us that “(this is a) Great Find!, … technically it is called leucistic. True Albinos have no pigment at all (so their eyes are also pink). A couple of white wobbegongs have been photographed off Perth in the last few years but I’ve never heard of a white Grey Nurse before!”

Shark F217 - White Grey Nurse Shark

Photographer Alan Chng

Migaloo, the Rockstar white humpback whale is Albino, with pink eyes due to having no pigmentation at all. Leucism is defined as a partial loss of pigmentation from a genetic melanin mutation.

The white grey nurse shark is thought to be the first recorded of it’s kind in Western Australia! while we await feedback from contacts over east, it’s possible it is the first of it’s kind recorded in the whole of Australia!

Below you can see shark F217 side by side with the usual grey nurse sharks.

White Grey Nurse Shark - Shark F217

Photographer Alan Chng

Help us give the white Grey Nurse Shark a name

The white Grey Nurse Shark has been assigned a reference number, shark F217. Because this is the first recorded sighting, we get to choose her name and we want your help! F217 is female. Shark F217 needs a real name. What would you call her? Moonshine, Casper and Ghost have been top suggestions so far. Take a look at Facebook or instagram to vote!

Have you recorded a white grey nurse shark sighting?

If you have a sighting to report or want to help us name Shark F217, the white grey nurse shark, head over to the Bucket List Diver Facebook page and comment.

Will we see shark F217 again?

While there is limited publicly available data on the Grey Nurse Shark population in Western Australia, there are some promising studies on those in the Eastern States available. These studies indicate that while ranges do vary, of the tracked sharks, the majority patrol regular areas. This territorial behaviour means we can protect these areas from harmful fishing practices. It also means that we have a good chance of spotting this beautiful creature again in the future. We will continue to report all of our Grey Nurse Shark sightings to contribute to the better understanding and conservation of these fascinating creatures.

Based on other shark sightings we have recorded and the relatively small window of time we spend diving these sites, we have found familiar faces tend to re-appear every once in a while.

Can I dive with Grey Nurse Sharks?

Diving with the Grey Nurse Sharks is a rare treat for advanced divers with experienced guides due to the depth and conditions at the site.

What is the Scuba signal for shark?

Do you know the SCUBA signal for shark? The divers on Friday’s trip certainly do! Take a look at the pictures below where you can see them signalling “shark” by using their hand to create a dorsal fin on their foreheads.

Happy Divers after seeing the sharks - scuba signal for shark

The lucky Divers using the scuba signal for shark

Thanks to Alan Chng for the images of Shark F217.

As one of only two known dive boats on the site that day our divers were so lucky to experience this incredible sight. If you have seen something special reach out, we’d love to hear your story.