SHARK TAGGING: How SCDNR tracks sharks in local waterways

A Moment of Science

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina has an active shark population, we know this through a shark tagging program through the Department of Natural Resources.

Since 1998, SCDNR has been tagging and tracking sharks from Bulls Bay to St. Helena Sound.

SCDNR Marine Biologist Bryan Frazier has been a part of this project for more than a decade. “Tracking their population through time, we are also getting information on their growth, on their migration,” he explained.

You can find Frazier and his team on the water from late April to September, using different shark tagging methods.

One of the most common types of tags is a spot tag, used by OCEARCH to track sharks.  Spot tags are mounted on top of the shark dorsal fin and track movement via Satellite. These tags last about 5 years.

Another type of tag is an acoustic tag, this uses an acoustic receiver to gather information. It can pinpoint when a tagged fish swims within range of the device. It will record the date and time and the exact tag number of the animal.

In order to capture the sharks, SCDNR uses two very safe methods, gillnet, and drumline.

Creed Branham a student with the program broke down how the drumline works.

“A big buoy with a long downline that goes to weight. And then to the weight,

we attach the actual fishing gear. And that is about 100 feet of a heavy line down to our hook.”

While the dumbline is used to bait larger sharks, a gillnet is used for smaller animals. This net is a wall of netting that hangs down about 12 feet into the water. It is typically made of nylon. This will not hurt the animals.

Shark tagging and tracking gives us a lot of information about the sharks in our local water and it’s safe for them.

“They don’t feel pain the same way. And there are not really any nerves in the dorsal fin itself so when we are tagging these animals it’s not hurting them at all.”

When we went out, we spent the day tagging Bonnethead sharks, keep an eye out for next week’s story when I introduce you to this local shark.

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