New lab bolsters grey nurse shark research

Minister Macdonald opens new $700,000 research centre

NSW Government scientists working to save the grey nurse shark received a boost yesterday when Minister for Primary Industries, Ian Macdonald opened the new Aquatic Ecosystems Laboratory at Port Stephens.

Macdonald officially opened the $700,000 research centre during a ceremony at the Port Stephens Fisheries Institute.

"This significant investment assists in preserving the long-term sustainability of our valuable aquatic resources in NSW – and bolsters the campaign to help save the critically endangered grey nurse shark," Macdonald said.

"The new laboratory is specially designed for shark work and will play a pivotal role in the Institute’s grey nurse shark breeding program.

"This includes the world-first technique that recently saw the successful transfer of late stage wobbegong shark embryos into an artificial uterus and their subsequent "birth" from the device."

The program is funded by the NSW Government’s "Towards 2020" initiative. Other research programs to be undertaken at the new facility include the study of seagrass growth, an important fish
habitat; and investigating small fish caught in field surveys in important coastal wetlands.

Macdonald said the new complex houses other facilities in addition to the main laboratory field sampling equipment, including a large walk-in freezer, an aquarium room with running saltwater and freshwater, and an area for the dissection of large fish and sharks.

"It also features separate storage facilities for hazardous chemicals and will house the Institute’s impressive collection of alcohol-preserved biological samples that has been compiled over many years," Macdonald said.

"In addition to the new laboratory and storage areas, improvements will also be made to the existing Aquatic Ecosystems building, including refurbishment of an existing work area, upgrades to the security system, and improved covered access and other internal modifications."

Following the official opening, Macdonald assisted scientists with "birthing" the second trial of wobbegong shark embryos from the artificial uterus. The second trial of the artificial uterus saw eight embryos transferred, at a much earlier stage of development than those in the first trial. The procedure was one of the very first uses of the new laboratory.

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