We will acoustically tag bonnethead sharks in a South Carolina estuary to investigate space use and determine if the introduction of offshore wind farms could cause environmental displacement from this area. Our work will ensure that the sustainable energy from offshore wind farms will not adversely affect the marine environment. The bonnethead is being used as a model species and the findings will be used for protecting all coastal sharks, the marine ecosystem, and provided ecosystem services.
Every season, millions of sharks undergo migrations. Recent work has shown that bonnethead sharks in South Carolina return to the same estuary every season, just like turtles return to the same beach where they were born. Unlike turtles, we don't know how sharks do this.
Sharks have a series of pores on their snouts and adjacent regions called the Ampullae of Lorenzini. The jelly-filled indentations facilitate prey detection and possibly, magnetic based navigation. We believe sharks use magnetic stimulus for navigation.
Offshore wind farms route energy to shore with submarine cables, which emit electromagnetic impulses. If sharks do use magnetic stimulus for navigation, these submarine cables could act as a roadblock to seasonal migrations of coastal sharks. We must delineate habitat use for the bonnethead shark. Subsequently, we will be able to determine if the introduction of submarine cables inhibits sharks from returning to this range.
Climate change is an ever-pressing issue in the modern era. With the advancement of technology, energetic sustainability is beginning to correlate with economic sustainability. Therefore, the feasibility of alternate energy is higher than ever.
While alternate energy appears to be 100% beneficial, that might not be the case. If the submarine cables from offshore wind farms act as roadblocks to shark migration, then it is possible that the animals will not reach the regions they typically occupy.
This could affect all other animals in the ecosystem as sharks are valuable members of the marine environment. The ecosystem services provided by our coastal regions, like fishing and healthy coral reefs, can be regulated by sharks -- they keep our oceans healthy and our wallets full.
For the long term, our project goals are to determine the environmental impact of offshore wind farms on coastal sharks. Before that can be accomplished, we must study a small population of sharks and regionally define their typical habitat. If we do not know what zones the sharks occupy without the presence of submarine cables, then we cannot know if environmental displacement is occurring.
After we have defined the sharks' typical habitat, we will conduct laboratory testing to determine if the introduction of the signals from submarine cables will inhibit the animal's annual return. This environmental impact must be determined before the federal government can lease land to private corporations for development. Funding this project will expedite the development of sustainable energy.
Bryan Keller, Dean Grubbs, Bryan Frazier, Craig O'Connell, and Richard Viso
Bryan grew up in the Sonoran desert and had few interactions with marine life; despite these rare occurrences they still greatly influenced his career. Upon enrolling at the University of Arizona for his BSc, he pursed internships that exposed him to large marine fishes. He spent a summer at the Bimini Biological Field Station studying a variety of sharks. He returned to Bimini the following two years where he conducted research for his MSc thesis on the social behavior of lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) while enrolled at Coastal Carolina University. At CCU he has continued research on topics including the physiology of deep-sea sharks and the spatial ecology and feeding preferences of sharks in Winyah Bay. While in Bimini, he received a grant that allowed the Bimini Biological Field Station to give outreach presentations to every student enrolled in public school on the island. Bryan continues those presentations to students around Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as he did in Bimini.
Bryan is fascinated by spatial ecology and how the presence of offshore wind farms could impact seasonal migrations of coastal sharks. My PhD dissertation will determine the environmental impact of wind farms and if there is a way to mitigate the effect of large marine fishes.
After earning his PhD he plans to continue his career as a research scientist. In addition to his research, he hopes to be able to influence policy decisions. Tom Mullikin once compared the aphorism ‘If a tree falls and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?” to science and policy by saying “If you don’t influence policy with good bench science, does it matter?” Recently, Bryan worked with Tom to draft legislation to prohibit the wanton waste of sharks and the possession of shark fins in South Carolina. If passed, we will finally hear ‘the tree fall’.
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GEA shark scientist Bryan Keller recently visited South Carolina to participate in the State Guard Hurricane Hike. While driving back to Florida, Bryan decided to stop at a local beach where he saw a group of tourists fishing on the beach. Quickly intrigued, Bryan approached the group and inquired to their success. To his surprise, the tourists just had a shark take their bait. With little experience in shark handling, Bryan taught the couple how to safely hold the large animal and why they are important to a healthy ecosystem. This blacknose shark (Carcharhinus acronotus) was quickly released into the water after having the hook carefully extracted from its mouth.
Thomas, Jr. and Bryan Kellar from Global EcoAdventures' Shark Institute joined Mullikin, Sr., retired Navy Chief Greg Hincke, retired Master Sergeant Mike Holford and Active Duty Special Operator (Combat Diver) Danny Pritchard for the PADI Shark Awareness Specialty Course at Stuart Cove's in Nassau, Bahamas over the weekend. During this course they all learned a great deal about the local sharks from expert shark divers with Stuart Cove 's Terri Harrison and Georgi Merlusca. They enjoyed several shark dives as well as feeding the massive fish. Thomas Jr. also successfully passed the Shark Feeder Course.
"We need broader understanding of sharks and public pressure to stop the senseless slaughter of this fish that sits atop the marine food chain" said Mullikin, Sr. Most of the sharks that were observed were caribbean reef sharks; although they did see one Tiger Shark. Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi) are distributed throughout the Bahamas and maintain a pivotal ecological role on the reef. Multiple studies have demonstrated healthy reefs have sharks, they are like the canaries in the coal mine. The Bahamas became a shark sanctuary in 2002 and by protecting sharks, the Bahamians are subsequently protecting their reefs.
Bryan further explained that "it's easy to say sharks are advanced creatures void of natural aggression towards people, but it's intuitive when the 8ft predators are feeding inches from your face and changing their swimming patterns to avoid contact." Bryan continues his bench research on a variety of projects that include investigating what factors influence partner preference in lemon sharks and the spatial ecology of sharks in South Carolina. Next year Bryan will continue to investigating how offshore wind farms will impact the seasonal migrations of coastal sharks.
If you are interested in joining one of our dives, please contact Thomas Mullikin, Jr. at 803-427-3532. If you would like to assist in protecting the sharks, please contact your legislator and request that they support Bryan's Law - to stop the senseless killing.
Senate Bill 400 was introduced in the SC Senate on February 3, 2015 by Senator Vincent Sheheen.
A piece of meaningful legislation has been introduced through the good work of Bryan Keller. The legislation below concerns the unnecessary wanton waste of sharks. This law when passed will be referred to as "Bryan's Law" and will be a legacy of his meaningful work in applying his bench science to policy in South Carolina (and model legislation for other states).
TO AMEND CHAPTER 13, TITLE 50 OF THE 1976 CODE, RELATING TO SALE AND TRAFFICKING IN FISH, TO PROVIDE THAT IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR ANY PERSON, EXCEPT A COMMERCIAL FISHERMAN OR A PERSON WHO HARVESTS FISH IN ANY CAPACITY WITH THE INTENT OF GAINING MONETARY BENEFITS THROUGH SALE, BARTER, OR TRADE OF FINS AS A BYPRODUCT OF THE CAPTURE OF ANY CARTILAGINOUS FISH, TO POSSESS, SELL, OFFER FOR SALE, IMPORT, BRING, OR CAUSE TO BE BROUGHT OR IMPORTED INTO THIS STATE FINS OF CARTILAGINOUS FISH FOR RETAIL PURPOSES; TO PROVIDE THAT A COMMERCIAL FISHERMAN OR A PERSON WHO HARVESTS FISH IN ANY CAPACITY WITH THE INTENT OF GAINING MONETARY BENEFITS THROUGH SALE, BARTER, OR TRADE OF FINS AS A BYPRODUCT OF THE CAPTURE OF ANY CARTILAGINOUS FISH MAY SELL OR OFFER FOR SALE FINS ONLY AFTER THE INITIAL DETACHMENT; TO PROVIDE THAT NO PERSON SHALL INTENTIONALLY, KNOWINGLY, RECKLESSLY, OR WITH CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE FAIL TO SALVAGE FOR BAIT OR HUMAN CONSUMPTION MORE THAN FIFTY PERCENT OF THE EDIBLE MEAT OF ANY CARTILAGINOUS FISH; TO PROVIDE PENALTIES AND TO DEFINE NECESSARY TERMS.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
SECTION 1. Article 11, Chapter 13, Title 50 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
"Section 50-13-1640. For the purposes of this section:
(1) 'Person' means an individual, firm, corporation, association, partnership, club, private body, or other entity.
(2) 'Cartilaginous fish' means all members of the subclass Elasmobranchii, including, but not limited to, sharks, skates, stingrays, their products, eggs, or the dead body parts not intended for human consumption.
(3) 'Initial detachment' refers to the physical removal of fins from the body of a cartilaginous fish and preparation for purchase by a distributor.
Section 50-13-1641. (A) It is unlawful for any person, except for those persons described in subsection (B), to possess, sell, offer for sale, import, bring, or cause to be brought or imported into this State for retail purposes fins of cartilaginous fish, including, but not limited to, dorsal fins, pectoral fins, anal fins, pelvic fins and caudal fins This includes fins in all stages of preparation, from immediately after initial detachment to readiness for human consumption.
(B) Commercial fishermen or a person who harvests fish in any capacity with the intent of gaining monetary benefits through sales, barter, or trade of fins as a byproduct of the capture of any cartilaginous fish may sell or offer for sale fins only after the initial detachment.
(C) No person shall intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence fail to salvage for bait or human consumption more than fifty percent of the edible meat of any cartilaginous fish.
(D) A person violating this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be:
(1) for a first offense, fined not more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than thirty days, or both;
(2) for a second offense within five years of the first offense, fined not less than three hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than thirty days, or both;
(3) for any offense within five years of a second offense, fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisonment for not less than thirty days, or both."
SECTION 2. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.
photo by T.J. Ostendorf
photo by T.J. Ostendorf
photo by T.J. Ostendorf