MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Picture perfect beach weather is here and that means people are flocking to the Grand Strand's coast. It's not just people lurking in the ocean water, though. The Atlantic Ocean has a plethora of marine life beachgoers should watch out for.
"It's the Atlantic ocean so it's really possible to see anything. You never know and over the years, we've seen it all off the coast here," said Ed Parsons, a marine biologist with Ripley's Aquarium.
Parson says local beachgoers on the Grand Strand are most likely to encounter jellyfish and stingrays. Each one can sting so he says people should stay away if possible.
When it comes to sharks, sightings seem to ramp up in the summertime. Parson says people are more likely to hear about interactions in the summer months since there are more people in the water. Another reason could be because another popular summertime activity, fishing.
People who fish close to the shoreline attract sharks looking for food. Parsons says that's why it's not uncommon to hear about shark sightings close to piers.
Parson says there are a few sharks species that live off the coast year-round like the Atlantic Sharp nose, Spinner Shark and Sand Bar Shark. He says if they're treading close to the shore, they're probably looking for food
Parson says the Atlantic has a range of shark species. When the ocean off the Grand Strand's coast gets even warmer, sharks start to migrate closer to the land. Parson says they're coming from the Gulf Stream about 60 miles offshore.
"We'll start to see more sharks, and we'll start to see lager sharks. The big Tigers (sharks) start to come in the summer. You don't see them close to the coast, but you'll see them in the area as the water starts to warm up," said Parsons.
The City of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach have not had any reports of shark activity so far this year. Some other, perhaps, less intimidating animals, people could spot offshore are sea turtles, manatees and dolphins. Parsons says people who plan to take a swim should play it safe and use common sense.
"If you do come on contact with something, just leave it alone because you don't know what it is or what it could do. It could bite, it could sting, it could be painful or serious," added Parsons.