Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Shark Tagging, South Carolina
That’s what I thought too until I spent a day with biologists with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. I hopped aboard a 21 foot boat and accompanied Brian Frazier and Ashley Shaw, two SCDNR biologists, into the shallow estuaries and bays around Charleston, assisting in an ongoing project to track and understand the population, birthing and migration of these beleaguered animals.
SCDNR has been conducting a shark population since 1998 in coordination with the federal government under a program called COASTSPAN. The study targets first year pups and juvenile sharks as study subjects. Sharks are captured, measured, tagged and released, numbered tags providing the means to track the animals’ movements and life spans. Six species are targeted: Atlantic Sharpnose, Bonnethead, Sandbar, Blacktip, Scalloped Hammerhead and Fine Tooth. Blood samples are taken from any mature females captured to assess reproductive status.
OK! This is what I came for! Sharks up close, an amazing sight. They are amazing creatures, even more so once you hold one and feel their powerful and lithe bodies in your hands.
We emptied the gillnet, time to go back to the longline, and so on for the entire day. We set and gathered the longlines and nets all day long, hot, tiring, grueling work—pulling in a gillnet encumbered with angry sharks against an opposing tide is backbreaking, hauling up lines hooked with unwilling sharks even harder. But the excitement never grew old and by the end of the day we captured 36 sharks, including a dozen mature females of four foot or more.