SC - Great white sharks feed on dead whale off Myrtle Beach coast; expert critical of fishermen
MYRTLE BEACH — As “Cottontail,” a deceased North Atlantic right whale, drifts some 15 miles off the coast of Myrtle Beach, images of great white sharks circling and feeding on it should come as no surprise — it’s simply part of the ecosystem that is usually out of sight.
Daniel Abel, a professor of marine science at Coastal Carolina, likens it to natural order that has played out over centuries, as well as the whale’s blubber being a perfect fit for the great white’s diet.
“This is an area that’s when they are on the continental shelf, and there are shelf oriented animals that switch and you know cetaceans like whales and dolphins and lots of other food for them,” said Abel, the co-author of “Shark Biology and Conservation,” which was published by Johns Hopkins University Press.
While Abel believes that other shark species such as makos, duskys, sandbars and oceanic whitetips are also likely feeding on the whale carcass, he’s also quick to point out that sharks are not exempt from the same fate as “Cottontail,” who died from entanglement in ropes and other manmade gear.
Sharks can also be trapped by loose materials, but they will not float like a whale after death, instead falling to the bottom of the ocean.
During research excursions up and down the Myrtle Beach coast, Abel and his group of graduate-student researchers have aided in freeing sharks of manmade materials.
“When you take about public safety, what we should be concerned about is ensuring that those whales are safe but they don’t hang don’t get tangled in fishing gear,” Abel said. “We need to take this seriously, as it doesn’t just impact endangered whales.