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Ocean Researchers Track Great White Shark Off Coast Of Jacksonville

shark on board ship

A great white shark named Mary Lee was recorded off the coast of Jacksonville last week.

Ocean researchers who are part of an organization called OCEARCH, are following her and other great whites to learn their traveling patterns.

Mary Lee is a 16-foot, 3,500-pound great white shark. And she’s been cruising through the waters off of Jacksonville.

Jim Gelsleichter is a marine biologist with the University of North Florida and works with OCEARCH. He says the shark population off the coast of Jacksonville is the greatest during the summer.

“It’s important for everybody to exercise caution, but not let the fear of shark attack ruin your enjoyment because it is still a very rare event,” said Gelsleichter.

The OCEARCH team tags great whites with GPS locators.  Whenever the shark's dorsal fin pops above water, they show up as data points on the OCEARCH website. Visitors can watch a constantly updated map of their travel.  

Gelsleichter says the tagging is to try to shed light on migration patterns, particularly why sharks are traveling southward down the East Coast from near Cape Cod.  He says when the sharks are up north, they eat seals.

“What they’re feeding on when they move down here, and they don't have seals to depend on, is really somewhat of a question that we’re trying to answer through the samples that we’ve obtained,” said Gelsleichter.

He says Mary Lee has traveled more than 20,000 miles since being tagged in 2012 and has swum within 200 yards of Jacksonville Beach.

Follow Mary Lee on Twitter:

Taylor Johnson has been practicing on-air journalism since the fifth grade, bringing over 10 years of experience to WJCT as a Summer Intern. Growing up in Lakeland, Florida, she followed her passion for production to the University of North Florida where she is currently double majoring in production and journalism. Taylor will graduate with her bachelor's degrees in December.