Featured Image: Post and Courier
Michelle Passerotti, a Charleston resident and University of South Carolina researcher, is working on a technology that could zap a shark (a harmless technique even though it sounds abrasive) in order to measure the age of sharks and red snappers. This would be a critical step in sustaining these valuable species. While many fear sharks or worry about them when taking a dip in the water at the beach, sharks are proven to be critical to the well-being of ecosystems and are essential to keeping other species healthy.
Passerotti could be as little as a year away from this massive breakthrough. The current technique of aging sharks and snappers is cutting into a bone and counting the growth rings, as you would for a tree. Not only is this technique not shown to be the most accurate, but it can also take up to two days to come up with the age. This laser technique could come up with an age within a minute and automatically load it into a database.
“It’s going to save a ton of money and a ton of time, freeing up fish scientists to spend more time on something other than counting (bone) ring bands,” Passerotti said.
The snapper-grouper species overall are estimated to be worth more $15 million per year to the Southeast region. A decade ago, people believed red snapper stock was depleted and regulators enforced tight catch and season limits. Federal regulators are allowing more catch while struggling to improve counts which are considered to be inaccurate by many. This laser technique would aid in creating an accurate count of the stock with ages as well.
This is not the first time technology has been developed or attempted, but Passerotti is the first to bring it to the Southeast. A region which would widely benefit from it. Both species are essential to our waters and are indispensable to our coastlines.