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BHP Billiton Petroleum, in association with the Melbourne Aquarium, has announced the sponsorship of a three year breeding and conservation program of the grey nurse shark. The grey nurse shark (Carcharius Taurus) has been classified critically endangered by the Australian government.

The sponsorship includes building a new  60,000 litre baby shark nursery exhibit and breeding facility at the Melbourne Aquarium, and funding research into the reproductive biology of the species. Initially this will involve collection of blood and other samples to better understand the  reproductive cycles of the grey nurse shark. In the long term it is hoped to establish an artificial insemination program to breed the sharks in captivity. The grey nurse shark has a low reproductive rate, with a breeding female only producing a maximum of two pups every two years.

BHP Billiton is a participant in the Bass Strait joint venture, and is currently developing the offshore Minerva gas field near Port Campbell. These are locations where the Grey Nurse Shark was once plentiful - but due to recreational and commercial fishing activities it is no longer found in these waters.

Terry White, Vice President Bass Strait Asset, said: "All of our Petroleum operations in Australia are in a marine environment, so we believe this is an area where it is appropriate to direct funding for research. To work successfully in the marine environment we need to know as much as possible about it in order to minimise our impact. We hope that this program will contribute to the conservation of this important species."

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