JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - A great white shark that was tracked to within 200 yards of Jacksonville Beach late Monday night was "pinged" Wednesday morning about 15 miles off the coast but heading back toward shore.
A "ping' is determined when the tagged shark's dorsal fin breaks the surface of the water and transmits a signal to a satellite overhead, according to OCEARCH ocean research group's website. The transmission then sends back an estimated geo-location.
The 16-foot, 3,456-pound shark named Mary Lee was tagged Sept. 17 off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., and has been tracked by OCEARCH since then.
"No one had ever figured out how you catch a 5,000 pound shark, give someone 15 minutes with it and let it go alive, and we've really finally pioneered that method," said Chris Fisher, of OCEARCH.
Both sharks they've tagged came to Florida. When Mary Lee entered the surf zone at Jacksonville Beach, the research group notified local police of the shark's presence. There were no swimmers in the area at the time of the report.
At midday Tuesday, the shark have moved about 15 miles offshore and headed further out overnight, but by 9 a.m. Wednesday, Mary Lee was moving back toward the coast.
The research group said a second great white named Genie, which was tagged off of Cape Cod, was moving about 40-60 miles off the coast of Jacksonville.
University of North Florida research biologists are studying the great whites track as part of a new shark research program on campus.
"It's a large collaborative, multi-agency effort between UNF and researchers in Massachusetts," said Mike McCallister. "It's a pretty unique opportunity for UNF and unique for Florida."
Their goal is to help people understand more about sharks since more than 73 million sharks are killed each year.
For any tracking information regarding the sharks, go to OCEARCH's website or Facebook page. For more information on sharks or to report a great white shark sighting, click here. A parody Twitter account has been created for the shark called @GreatMaryLee.
Due to the size of the shark and the potential dangers, police recommended that beachgoers stay out of the water until the shark leaves the area.
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