Local Sharks

I think most of you guys realize that I have a real fondness for sharks!

I am rarely not more than one association away from a conversation about these cartilaginous creatures.Beaufort County is heaven for a shark enthusiast, because we have an incredible diversity of elasmobranch fishes in the waters of Port Royal Sound. The creeks, rivers and sounds around here are home to an amazing diversity of fish, especially sharks and rays. Approximately 20 species of these non-bony fishes patrol our local creeks and rivers. Most of our sharks are relatively small species rarely exceeding 5 feet in length but many of the larger species use our local waters as "pupping" grounds venturing into Broad river and others to have their young . Port Royal Sound is even home to some of the "big boys" including tiger sharks and great hammerheads often exceeding twelve feet in length.The closely related rays are pretty abundant here as well. We have southern stingrays, Atlantic stingrays, butterfly rays, cow nosed rays and even an occasional manta ray (a species that grows to twenty feet across) as well as others.

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I realize this sounds like a bit of a horror story to have so many sharks around but it really is a good thing. High diversity of sharks indicates healthy waters and surrounding marsh. PRS has some characteristics that make it quite different from other aquatic systems including deep water, high salinity and high tidal amplitude. These features allow certain offshore species a place to spawn safely. We have high shark diversity for the very same reasons that we have good cobia spawning ground and great habitat for red drum.

Although shark pups can be a real nuisance as aggressive bait stealers, there is no reason to believe that sharks reduce numbers of game fish in local waters.  Sharks are probably beneficial to our fishery. Certain species are indicator species (analogous to a canary in a coal mine) letting us know about water quality and the presence of certain pollutants. If particular shark species are not in an area then there is probably a good reason for it. Besides small shark pups are likely an important food source for certain commercially important species like cobia and others as well as food for bottle nosed dolphins.

Tags: marine life