Chessie, a 1,200-pound tiger shark named for Beaufort County’s Chechessee River, was tagged last week near the mouth of Port Royal Sound off Hilton Head Island.
She was brought alongside the charter boat Outcast May 18 for research purposes by Captain Chip Michalove.
“She is the biggest tiger shark ever tagged by anybody on the East Coast,” Michalove said.
Chessie is 12 feet, 2 inches long.
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“Her head is as big as a great white’s head,” Michalove said. The average tiger shark would be 300 to 500 pounds.
Bryan Frazier of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources was onboard for the two-mile chase to bring her in, Michalove said. She had an escort of about eight cobia swimming around her.
Frazier took DNA and blood samples and inserted a tracking device that should ping out her location for seven years. He put a transmitter on her dorsal fin, and Chessie was sent on her way.
She’s already traveled almost 300 miles, pinging at least once a day.
Chessie can be tracked on the website for the nonprofit Ocearch organization. Its goal is to enable “leading researchers and institutions to generate previously unattainable data on the movement, biology and health of sharks to protect their future while enhancing public safety and education.”
Chessie also is a new ambassador for the Port Royal Maritime Center on S.C. 170.
Chessie’s tracking page on the Ocearch website says: “The name Chessie comes from the Chechessee River in Port Royal Sound, South Carolina, where the Port Royal Sound Maritime Center is located. The mission of the Maritime Center is to connect people with the waters and the lands of Port Royal Sound.”
Michalove said his goal is to learn more.
“Our goal is just to keep learning about their migration patterns, and to keep the public involved to help conserve the species.”
He thinks the tagging will open the public’s eyes to what we have here.
“We know we have an awesome shark fishery and we know they’re not dangerous.
“We’ve never had a tiger shark attack in the Carolinas and as close as they are, that shows we’re not on the menu.”