Lowcountry Life: Of sharks and Beaufort

It's been said recently by scientists that due to the abundance of food available, Beaufort's waters are a hotbed for sharks. Photo courtesy Chip Michalove

It’s been said recently by scientists that due to the abundance of food available, Beaufort’s waters are a hotbed for sharks.
Photo courtesy Chip Michalove

Beaufort is a land surrounded by water and with that water comes many things that live in it. We enjoy the bounty of the local seas with our local shrimp and crab harvests and the abundance in the variety of fresh fish that come ashore daily with our area fishermen. Water is part of our daily life here. We enjoy a variety of water sports, fishing, boating and those hot summer days at our favorite local spot on the water.

One of those things that live in the sea is a variety of sharks. Lots of them.

It’s been said recently by scientists that due to the abundance of food available, Beaufort’s waters are a hotbed for sharks. Port Royal Sound was pointed out as a main birthing area for great whites that cruise the Atlantic Ocean. The great whites journey to Beaufort to give birth and the little ones stick around and eventually grow into big ones, then come back again to repeat the cycle.

Scary stuff?  You bet.

Dangerous stuff? Not really.

We’re around sharks all the time.

Yes, Mary Lee, a great white shark weighing in excess of 3,500 pounds has been spotted roaming Beaufort’s waters on a frequent basis, along with other huge great whites and tagged tiger sharks.

Yes. Mary Lee once pinged her satellite while in the Morgan River.

Yes, scientists have determined that Port Royal Sound is an Atlantic hotbed for great whites to give birth and leave their young to feed on the plentiful food the area has too offer.

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Yes, the folks at Outcast Charters over on the other side of the county are pulling in huge great whites and big 12 ft. tigers over the past few seasons.

But, this is nothing new. It’s ALWAYS been that way….and we are now just finding out. The sharks didn’t just pull into town last year. In fact it’s been going on for thousands of years. They’ve always been here. We humans are always the last to know. The fact that we know have this information does nothing to make anything dangerous on our local beaches.

Understand, it’s no different. They’ve always been there. Whether you swam at the beach in 1983 or 1996 or now in 2017…they’ve always been there, and there’s no more risk of encountering one today than before.

It’s just part of our Lowcountry life.

Outcast Sport Fishing has tagged and released several huge great white sharks over the past few seasons. Photos courtesy Chip Michalove

Outcast Sport Fishing has tagged and released several huge great white sharks over the past few seasons. Photos courtesy Chip Michalove

Of the over 375 different species of sharks found in the world’s oceans, only about 30 have been reported to ever attack a human. Of these, only about a dozen should be considered particularly dangerous when encountered, and we’ve always had them here.

The sharks more commonly found in Beaufort’s waters are bull sharks, black tip sharks, hammerheads, bonnet head sharks, blacknose and sharpnose sharks. Only the bull shark is considered aggressive.

The shark species responsible for most unprovoked attacks on humans are the great white, tiger, and bull sharks. All sharks, large and small, are  predators and could be capable of inflicting wounds if provoked. They should all be treated with respect when encountered.

Local bonnethead sharks feed on shrimp in one of Beaufort's many creeks. Bonnethead sharks aren't typically aggressive to humans. Photo courtesy Kelley Luikey/Nature Muse Imagery

Local bonnethead sharks feed on shrimp in one of Beaufort’s many creeks. Photo courtesy Kelley Luikey/Nature Muse Imagery

Humans have a fear for sharks that may be in part innately rooted in our past when we did need to be on constant alert for large predators. More importantly, in today’s world we constantly are subjected to the media’s stereotypic characterizations of sharks, which are rife with misinformation and actively promote fear and loathing.

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Ever see Jaws?

Finally, we as humans are used to controlling the world around us – damming rivers, flattening mountains, shooting a charging elephant – but sharks, like typhoons, lightning and tornadoes, are something we cannot control, hence our great interest in them.

The chances of being attacked by a shark are very small compared to other animal attacks, natural disasters, and ocean-side dangers. Many more people drown in the ocean every year than are bitten by sharks. The few attacks that occur every year are an excellent indication that sharks do not feed on humans and that most attacks are simply due to mistaken identity.

Again, they’ve always been here. When we enter the water, we enter their home.

Thankfully, most are welcoming to their Lowcountry guests.

Smaller sharks patrol in about a foot of water along the surf at Fripp Island beach. Photo by Janie Lackman

Smaller sharks patrol in about a foot of water along the surf at Fripp Island beach. Photo by Janie Lackman

 

 

 

 

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