CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is looking for the source of two photos showing sharks being branded. A spokesperson for the department said they have never seen anything like this before.
The photos originally appeared in the “Fishing the Lowcountry” Facebook page and has since been deleted. It shows a shark being branded with some type of logo that resembles a fishing hook or a letter.
The possible brandings have upset the boating and fishing community online. Many people found the photos disturbing and cruel.
Sam Kelton, a former coast guardsman said, “ “That gives everybody who uses the resources whether they fish for sharks or fish for redfish or anything else around here a bad name. Because now we’re all out here just abusing animals doing God knows what.”
Shark tagging isn’t unusual, and it provides experts with valuable information about different animals, while identifying and tracking them. Branding on the other hand, has not been used to identify sharks, according to SCDNR.
The branding is in violation of SC State law to “tag or mark and release saltwater fish” in SC without authorization from the DNR (SC Code Section 50-5-40). The statue does have an associated penalty if a conviction occurs.
The branding could also be potentially harmful to sharks and contribute to the current overfishing issue of sandbar sharks.
“It can definitely be harmful to the animal. In addition to causing pain to the animal, it damages the skin and secondary infection could weaken or cause the death of the animal,” said SCDNR Marine Biologist Bryan Frazier. “The species tagged, sandbar sharks, are currently overfished. The species is slow growing and slow to mature, making it vulnerable to exploitation. Recreational harvest of this species is prohibited.”
Officials with the South Carolina Aquarium hope that people will take the time to educate themselves on sharks and other wildlife, in an effort to stop more of these occurrences from happening.
“ I would hope that could move away from just mutilating them or damaging them just for fun,” said South Carolina Aquarium Senior Biologist Arnold Postell. “ Enjoy the scenery and it’s beautiful to see a shark like that in the wild.”
South Carolina Aquarium will host its annual Shark Week at the end of July.