Look out: Fritz and Al are cruising the beaches off the Isle of Palms.
No, they're not you're dad's old fraternity buddies; they're two of four tiger sharks tracked by Ocearch.org that have been frequenting Lowcountry waters, including Stono Inlet near Folly Beach and the mouth of the Edisto River. None have traveled extremely close to shore, but Fritz and Al are the closest, according to the most recent data.
They're not alone. Sharks frequently migrate to and travel through Lowcountry waters this time of year, according to Bryan Frazier, who works with Ocearch to tag and track tiger sharks found in the Port Royal Sound near Hilton Head Island.
Ocearch works with researchers and scientists around the world to track large sharks, like great whites and tiger sharks, and study their movement patterns. Mary Lee, a great white shark that's currently swimming far off the Savannah coast, has been tracked for nearly two years and has become something of a local celebrity because of it.
Fritz, named after former Sen. Fritz Hollings, and Al, named after a boat captain, were tagged in Port Royal Sound earlier this month. Fritz is the more mature coming in at about 425 pounds while Al is about 250. Both are about 10-foot in length.
"We're interested to see where these tiger sharks will end up," said Gorka Sancho, a biology professor at the College of Charleston who is working with Frazier on the project. Anyone can follow the shark's movements on a map at Ocearch.org.
Up to 16 different types of shark can be found off Lowcountry beaches during the summer, although the water is often too turbid for beachgoers to see.
"There's a whole range of species - sandbars, blacktips, lemons, bull sharks, even great whites," Frazier said.
Norman Godley, a Mount Pleasant surfer, has already seen three sharks in the water off Isle of Palms. Godley surfed there for four consecutive days and saw a shark on three of those days. One shark, a blacktip, was closer to the beach than he was. He estimated the water it swam in was about three feet deep.
That's "fairly common," Frazier said. But tiger sharks, like Fritz and Al, tend to stay in deeper waters.
While blacktips and other sharks can often get close to people in the water, they rarely pose a threat. While South Carolina had the third most shark attacks in the United States last year - six bites - none were fatal. The average number of shark attacks in South Carolina each year is four, and there hasn't been a shark-related fatality in the Palmetto State since the 1850s, Frazier said.
"They're in there swimming amongst people, but they're not bothering people," Frazier said.
Amanda Coyne can be reached at 937-5592.
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