Another large female tiger shark tagged in Port Royal Sound for research began pinging recently.
The 12-foot, 850-pound shark -- named Harry-Ette -- was tagged Nov. 4 by S.C. Department of Natural Resources biologist Bryan Frazier as part of a partnership with nonprofit OCEARCH, which studies sharks.
Harry-Ette is the 12th tiger shark fitted with a satellite transmitter as part of the project, and the 27th shark tagged total.
All of the sharks were tagged in Port Royal and St. Helena sounds.
The transmitters send a signal when the shark's fin breaks the surface of the water. The patterns have led biologists to believe Port Royal Sound is a mating ground for tiger sharks.
Both Harry-Ette and a second, smaller mature female tiger tagged the same day had fresh mating wounds, according to DNR. Male tiger sharks use their teeth during mating.
Frazier and Beaufort resident Jim Goller, who named the shark, had almost given up on hearing from Harry-Ette's tag before it popped up on OCEARCH's map (http://www.ocearch.org/profile/harry_ette/) this week, Goller said.
Goller is the director of the Hampton Wildlife Fund, a nonprofit partner of DNR which purchased the $5,000 tag for the shark. He named her for the fund's namesake, noted conservationist Harry Hampton.
Harry-Ette has traveled more than 350 miles, most recently surfacing Nov. 14 off the coast of North Carolina, according to the OCEARCH map.
"We look forward to following 'Harry-Ette' over the next few years, and hope she will help us better understand the reproductive cycle and movements of mature/pregnant tiger sharks," Frazier said in the news release. Frazier was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
Hotbed for sharks
The Port Royal Sound has been identified by scientists as a hotbed for sharks on the East Coast because of its high salinity and abundant food supply.
Great white sharks tagged by OCEARCH have "pinged" in the Beaufort County area. OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer told The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet last year that he thought Mary Lee -- a 16-foot great white weighing almost 3,500 pounds -- had given birth here.
In all, 17 species of sharks are known to frequent the waters.
The tiger sharks are the focus of most of researchers' attention here.
DNR and OCEARCH have worked with Hilton Head Island charter boat captain Chip Michalove to capture the animals.
The team's first tiger shark was tagged in May 2014. Michalove made headlines when he hauled in Chessie, which he said is the largest tiger shark tagged on the East Coast.
Michalove said Harry-Ette is the first tiger tag he wasn't on board for because he had another charter that day. He said the tiger sharks move out with colder temperatures but have stayed late this year.
"We've learned more in the last two years than we've learned in 20," Michalove said.
Founding father of SC conservation
Harry Hampton, who died more than 30 years ago, is considered the founding father of conservation in the state, according to his biography on the Hampton Wildlife Fund website.
An avid outdoorsman and reporter at The State newspaper, he led a campaign in the 1930s to organize a game and fish association. His efforts formed the S.C. Wildlife Foundation, of which Hampton became president, and the creation of what is now DNR.
The Hampton Wildlife Fund gives money to DNR for programs that can't be funded through its appropriations from the state, Goller said. The grants total about $150,000 to $180,000 each year, he said.
The nonprofit also gives about $36,000 each year in scholarship money and has been instrumental in youth outdoors programs throughout the state.
"We consider ourselves one of the best kept secrets in South Carolina," Goller said.
Goller said he was jealous when he heard about "Chessie," the 1,200 behemoth tagged earlier this year and representing the Port Royal Sound Foundation.
In March, the fund's 14-member board of directors voted to buy the satellite tag for their own shark.
Goller is a former DNR marketing director who moved to Beaufort in 2006 with his wife, Wendy. He hopes to add a fundraising banquet in Beaufort for the Hampton Fund, joining similar events in Spartanburg and Fort Mill.
He is an avid fisherman and Walterboro native happy to be back near Lowcountry waters.
"And I fish hard," he said.
Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.
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- Great whites 'pinging' off SC coast, Jan. 5 2014
- Scientists suggest local waters are birthing site for great white sharks, July 12, 2014
- Farrell: Next time Mary Lee the shark comes to Port Royal Sound, make sure to send her a welcome tweet, May 18, 2015