Happy Sea Turtle Nesting Season, Myrtle Beach! Helping these little turtles make it to the ocean starts now

Every day a baby sea turtle is born. In fact, they hatch all year-long, but mostly in the summer. Over the next few months, as thousands of locals and tourists will hit the beach, hundreds of these little hatchlings will break free from the nest to begin their dangerous journey to the water.

 “The turtle is made to just run. Run to the water to get out to safety to get out to deeper water,” Ann Wilson, a park ranger at Myrtle Beach State Park, said.

Wilson says the longer that a hatchling is on the beach, the more attractive it becomes to prey like ghost crabs, raccoons, and foxes. But their biggest danger is trash left behind by beachgoers.

“It’s not just the trash like a piece of plastic. It’s the sand toys, it’s the chairs, it’s the umbrellas and it’s even sand castles that look harmless and fun, “ Wilson said. “Every time they have a detour or an obstacle, it just lengthens their time on the beach and that is just dangerous for them.”

Wilson says the solution is simple. Leave the beach the way you found it.

“Taking everything off the beach and leaving it better than you found it. Flattened. Especially now that we’re getting into sea turtle hatching season,” Wilson said.

Summer doesn’t just signal the beginning of sea turtle hatching season, it is also a time to usher in fishing. But sometimes what a fisherman catches is not what they were hoping for.

“If you hook a sea turtle and you are on the fishing pier, you want to bring the sea turtle to the beachfront, to the sand instead of reeling it up onto the pier,” Katelyn McGlothlin, a sea turtle biologist at the South Carolina Aquarium, said.

If the sea turtle is small enough and there is a large net, McGlothlin says to try to get the sea turtle as close as you can to yourself and then pull it up with the net.

(c) South Carolina Aquarium Peach.JPG
“Peach” has fishing line and a fishing hook removed from her mouth.                                            Photo Courtesy: South Carolina AquariumMcGlothlin says don’t cut the fishing line.

McGlothin says if you have to cut the fishing line leave a few feet behind.

“If you cut the line you want to leave several feet of fishing line for biology and vet staff to easily remove that line so the sea turtle doesn’t continue to swallow the hook and line,” McGlothin said. “Then you want to call the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources who will send a staff member or volunteer out to respond to that animal and bring it to us at the South Carolina Aquarium.”

Sea Turtle Nesting season runs until August.

For more information on sea turtle nesting season and how you can help save an injured sea turtle visit the South Carolina Aquarium at www.scaquarium.org.

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Sink your teeth into some shark tagging facts as Shark Week approaches

It’s that time of year to feed your shark feeding frenzy appetite. Shark week is just around the corner and for some researchers, studying and tracking sharks happens year-round, not just one week out of the year.

Shark tagging allows researchers the chance to study the movements of these ocean predators and why they like to frequent certain waters over others. The sharks can have a tag placed near the shark’s dorsal fin, or they can have an acoustic telemeter inserted into the abdomen of the shark.

Acoustic telemeters are little pingers that ping every 60 to 90 seconds. For researchers to get information on where the shark is, it has to go by an acoustic receiver.

OCEARCH is one of the most well-known shark tagging groups around. They work mostly with Great Whites and Tiger Sharks. Presently, the group is conducting their 29th exhibition off the Jersey Shore.

Chris Fisher is known for his work with OCEARCH. Since 2007 Fisher has tagged many great whites, who have become local favorites, especially here in South Carolina. Fischer sets up a Twitter handle for all his sharks so they can “communicate with people.” You can access all the shark’s Twitter handles through Fischer’s Twitter account.

One of the most popular sharks that people like to track is Mary Lee. She was tagged in September of 2012 off the coast of Cape Cod. To see her tagging video click here.

According to the global shark tracker, Mary Lee has traveled almost 40,000 miles since she was tagged, many of her travels have taken her off the coast of South Carolina. Through her tag, researchers were able to tell if she was pregnant just by her movements and where she would spend time during certain times of the year.

The tagging process must run efficiently. According to OCEARCH, it should only take 15 minutes to get the shark onboard, tagged and back into the water.

This research is not only happening in the deep depths of the Atlantic Ocean. There are also tagging efforts happening right off the coast of South Carolina. Marine Biologists with Coastal Carolina University focus on the smaller resident sharks that call Winyah Bay home.

Dr. Dan Abel, a marine biologist with CCU, started the research program more than 15 years ago. He takes a group of undergraduate and graduate marine biology students out to Winyah Bay to study Juvenile Sandbar Sharks.

Caroline Collatos, a graduate student in the marine biology department at Coastal Carolina University, tells us the process to catch a shark is precise. According to Collatos, students bait 25 hooks on a line that is 150 meters long. The line has floats and anchors at both ends. Once the lines are in the water, they soak for 30-45 minutes. The students then hand pull the line in, hoping they have a shark on one of the hooks.

 

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Photo: CCU Shark Research Team Facebook page

Recently the Coastal Carolina Shark research team caught a small spinner shark that was just weeks or months old. The team was able to conclude this by an umbilical scar still visible on the shark.

This catch helped marine biologists determine that Winyah Bay is, in fact, a secondary nursery, meaning it is a place where baby sharks grow up.

Click on the following links for more information on OCEARCH or the Coastal Carolina Shark Research team.