Sharks in our local waters; What you need to know

A Moment of Science

Charleston, SC – The summertime is when many people in the Lowcountry head to the beach for some relief from the heat. Thanks to the 1975 hit Jaws, people fear what may be lurking under the water.  

“Sharks aren’t rare, if you are in the ocean you are swimming with sharks,” says SCDNR Marine Biologist Bryan Frazier.   

This time of year, Great Whites tend to travel northeast for cooler waters, so don’t worry about seeing Jaws. 

SCDNR Marine Biologist Bryan Frazier, says we have about 17 different types of sharks off our coast during the Summer months.  

It seems like sharks have been in the news more than ever for attacks, but on a a trip with SCDNR shark tagging project, the team says these animals are nothing to fear but should be respected.

While stats show an increase in bites during the last 30 years plus, there are not dramatic spikes, and there’s an explanation. 

“Sharks population were heavily over fished in the 1980s and early 90s and now population is rebounding. So there are more sharks in our coastal water but there are also more people. So we are more likely have interaction between the two.” 

The South Carolina coast averages four to five shark bites per year, but generally those are cases of mistaken identity.  As sharks feed in the surf where we swim, they may mistake us for prey.   Generally, once they realize we are not food, they will let go.  This would be labeled as a shark bite.

“We don’t really have aggressive bites here in South Carolina. In Florida and other parts of the world, they do have more aggressive bites. Something that you could potentially label as an attack,” Frazier explained.

While humans are not on the menu for sharks, there are some easy things you can do to look less like bait for sharks: 

Don’t wear shiny objects into the water  

Avoid large schools of fish, that’s what sharks want to eat  

Avoid swimming at dawn or dusk  

Try to swim in groups 

Don’t swim if you are actively bleeding  

Frazier says if you are enjoying some time in the water and see a shark, don’t panic. You can get out of the water, but know we are in their home and they are not trying to interact with us.  

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