Slippery shark squatter can stay - for the time being

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Staff at a desalination plant in Western Australia have decided to allow a shark that has taken up residence at the facility to stay.

The Wobbegong or Carpet Shark was discovered last week by divers during routine maintenance at the Binningup desalination plant, but has so far eluded any effort to capture and remove it.

It's not known how the shark came to be living in its new home, but it's thought that it probably entered the 22m deep station during the latter stages of the plant's construction via a 500m long, 2m diameter pipeline that slowly brings sea water to the facility. At that stage the grilles to prevent fish entering were not in place, and the shark possibly hid out in areas of the pipeline that could not be checked visually for safety reasons.

The shark has clearly been surviving well in its unusual residence in the nine months since the grilles were fitted, and has no impact on the plant's operations, so with no realistic prospect of it being captured any time soon it has been decided it can remain resident. However, having checked with local authorities as to the status of the species, the water corporation is not ruling out spearing the shark if it becomes a problem as they are not protected.

There are 12 species of Wobbegong or Carpet sharks in the family Orectolobidae, all characterised by flattened bodies, elaborate, carpet-like patterning and weed-like 'whiskers' around the tip of their head; the word 'Wobbegong' is thought to come from the Australian Aboriginal word for 'shaggy beard' referring to this.

They are residents of the temperate and tropical waters of the Western Pacific and Eastern Indian Oceans, mainly around Australia and Indonesia, with the largest species reaching around 3m/9.8'.

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