The South Carolina Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, in collaboration with the Marine Resources Division of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, held an informative shark identification workshop recently.
The collaborative workshop featured biologists with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) presenting several educational seminars on shark identification to participants from the American Fisheries Society, professionals in the fisheries field, students and the general public. Around 70 participants attended the event Saturday, Nov. 18 at the Marine Resources Center, which was part of the American Fisheries Society annual fall workshop series.
“This year we chose the identification of sharks because this has been of wide interest among our chapter members,” said Marcel Reichert, DNR biologist and South Carolina Chapter president of the American Fisheries Society. “Correct shark identification has been a problem, and there is an educational need in this area. Because of this need, we worked closely with DNR biologists knowledgeable with shark identification and organized this workshop in collaboration with the Marine Resources Division.”
The workshop featured presentations from DNR’s Josh Loefer on the key characteristics of sharks, their important morphological features, habitat necessities, fishing considerations and offshore species. DNR biologist Glenn Ulrich imparted identification information on the most common coastal sharks. Ulrich noted that Atlantic sharpnose sharks are the most abundant species in South Carolina waters by a considerable margin. Adult and young juvenile Atlantic sharpnose sharks have a black margin on the first and second dorsal fin.
“As a general rule of thumb,” Ulrich said, “any shark caught in the estuarine and coastal waters from late spring through early fall that is under 16 inches will invariably be an Atlantic sharpnose shark.” With shark identification, Ulrich noted that a key characteristic to look for is the presence of the interdorsal ridge, a raised fold of skin on the mid-line of the back of the shark, just between the first and second dorsal fin. “If you catch a shark with this ridge between April and October in estuarine and near shore coastal waters, there is a very high probability that it will be a sandbar shark,” said Ulrich. Sandbar sharks rank fourth in abundance in South Carolina waters and are the number one commercial shark species caught in the United States.
In addition to the presentations given by the keynote speakers, the workshop also featured a hands-on segment of shark specimen identification. “Based on the number of registered participants and the reactions afterwards, the workshop was very successful,” Reichert said. “The success was largely due to the fantastic job of DNR biologists and the educational materials they presented.”
The American Fisheries Society was founded in 1870 and is the oldest and largest professional society representing fisheries scientists. The organization’s mission is to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic science and promoting the development of fisheries professionals. The South Carolina chapter was chartered in 1982. Members include professionals from state and federal agencies, private industry, educational institutions and non-profit organizations.