Researchers from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources recruited the aid of a charter boat to reel in what is believed to be the largest tiger shark ever tagged on the East Coast.
According to The State, Captain Chip Michalove of Outcast Sport Fishing was the one to land the giant predator near Hilton Head on May 18. When it was brought alongside the boat, biologists measured the female shark to be around 12 feet and two inches long.
Dubbed “Chessie” after the nearby Chechessee River, the shark was estimated to weigh an astounding 1,200 pounds. For comparison, an average tiger shark weighs between 300 to 500 pounds.
“Her head is as big as a great white’s head,” Michalove told The State.
While they may not be as large as great whites, tiger sharks are considered some of the most dangerous of their kind to humans. The tiger’s preference for shallow water, harbors, and canals often bring it into conflict with people, but experts stress that attacks are still relatively rare. There have been no known tiger shark attacks in South Carolina, although three to four attacks occur every year in Hawaii.
“Took the biologists out on Monday and hooked into this 1,200lb behemoth,” Outcast Sport Fishing wrote on its Facebook page. “We put two tracking devices on her, took blood, DNA, and shoved her off. She’s already pinging like a maniac about 4 miles off [Hilton Head] and can now be seen on the free Ocearch shark tracker App. Her name is Chessie. Check her out, the new Carolina girl.”
Biologists said the shark had already traveled 300 miles since they attached a transmitter to her dorsal fin. Tagging fish, especially sharks, is important because it allows researchers to get a sense of their migration patterns, which in turn can be used as a resource for shark management. Tiger sharks are not considered a vulnerable species, unlike the more famous great white, though scientists say the species is still a target for illegal fishing. The data from Chessie will be used by the non-profit organization ORSEARCH, which operates an open source shark tracker on its website. You can see Chessie’s movements here.