Scientists searching for sharks off Lowcountry coast

White shark named Savannah (Source: OCEARCH)
White shark named Savannah (Source: OCEARCH)
Different sized trackers and acoustic tracker (center) (Source: OCEARCH)
Different sized trackers and acoustic tracker (center) (Source: OCEARCH)
M/V OCEARCH
M/V OCEARCH
Tiger Shark Weimar "pinging" off the coast as shown on OCEARCH Global Shark Tracker
Tiger Shark Weimar "pinging" off the coast as shown on OCEARCH Global Shark Tracker

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - The fear of sharks is known as Galeophobia, but for the scientists who study them, anxiety over the fish is baseless.

"We should not be afraid of sharks," OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer said.  "We should be terrified of an ocean that is not full of large sharks."

OCEARCH is a non-profit dedicated to studying keystone marine species, like sharks.  A team of their scientists recently ventured into lowcountry waters for the first time to tag sharks.  Tagging involves attaching two trackers to a shark which allow researchers to follow its movements.

There are more than 20 white sharks tagged by OCEARCH swimming in the North Atlantic.

"We're learning by leaps and bounds from these few tagged sharks that we have out there," South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Marine Biologist Bryan Frazier said.

Ten researchers on-board the M/V OCEARCH were prepared to collect a variety of samples from a caught shark, including blood and tissue.

"We'll all be on [the platform] at the same time working like a pit crew," Kimberly B. Ritchie, Ph.D, said. "I'll be taking surface swabs and then try to get out of the way and start working on my samples."  Ritchie is the manager of the Microbiology Program at Mote Marine Laboratory.

Though the shark is only analyzed for up to 15 minutes before it is returned to the water, the data remains valuable for years.

Anyone can follow the tagged sharks' movements online at http://www.ocearch.org/tracker/

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