Great white sharks enter Florida waters

Swimmers, surfers urged to stay out of water until shark leaves

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - Two great white sharks are being tracked off the coast of Jacksonville Beach, and the researcher who tagged them hopes we can learn more by following them.

One of the sharks entered the surf zone off the coast of Jacksonville Beach about 12:45 a.m. Tuesday, according to the OCEARCH ocean research group.

"So for the first time in history, we are tracking these great whites, solving the puzzle of their history," Chris Fischer with OCEARCH.

PHOTOS: Great white shark Mary Lee tagged by researchers

The shark, which was tagged on Sept. 17 off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., was 16 feet in length and weighed 3,456 pounds at the time she was tagged. She was given the name Mary Lee and is currently tracked and monitored via GPS by the research group.

When the shark entered the surf zone early Tuesday morning at Jacksonville Beach about 200 yards offshore, the research group contacted Jacksonville Beach police and notified them of the shark's presence. There were no swimmers in the area at the time of the report.

At midday Tuesday, the shark was tracked about 15 miles offshore.

The group also advised police of another great white named Genie, which was tagged off of Cape Cod and has moved to the area about 40-60 miles off the coast of Jacksonville.

Fischer said in the past, the biggest issue with tracking great whites was catching them.

"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," he said.

Fischer received help with fishermen and scientists to catch Mary Lee and Genie.

"Back in September, [we] tagged the first North Atlantic great white shark in history with a spot tag," said Fischer, "which goes on top of their dorsal fin, so every time they come up finning, it beams their location up to the lab through a satellite."

"So now we can actually watch the sharks, see where they go, and let them tell us where our next expedition should be," he continued.

Their appearance off the coast of northern Florida had researchers surprised.

"And I would suspect that they represent many other sharks. We only tagged two and they both came to Florida," said Fischer. "They've travelled thousands of miles to that spot and now they've been living in that spot for two months now. What's going on over there?"

OCEARCH wants to involve everyone, and has put their tracking system online.

"The coolest thing is everyone can follow them in real time with the ph-d's cause we make all that information public," said Fischer. "I'm going to show every shark that we have tagged."

Fischer said more than 73 million sharks are killed each year, and worries about the Earth's ecosystem if more of them are killed.

"Without a robust future for our ocean, there will be no robust future for our kids and our planet," he added.

For any tracking information regarding the sharks, go to OCEARCH's website or Facebook page.

Due to the size of the shark and the potential dangers, police are recommending that beachgoers stay out of the water until the shark leaves the area.

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