An Atlantic white shark named “Mary Lee” spent a lot of time off South Carolina during her nearly 40,000-mile ramble up and down the East Coast.
Mary Lee’s GPS tracker was attached off Cape Cod in September 2012. However, she was recorded traversing the length of the Atlantic coast for the next five years until her last recorded ping in June 2017.
“We’ve actually been quite surprised that we’ve gotten data from her for so long,” South Carolina Department of Natural Resources marine biologist Bryan Frazier said. “The tag that she’s outfitted with has an expected battery life of almost three years and she’s well beyond that. In fact, over five years of pinging in.”
Frazier and the SCDNR were not the only ones watching Mary Lee’s whereabouts. Anyone could see where she was checking in thanks to Osearch.org.
Based on the information gained from tracking Mary Lee and several other tagged sharks, Frazier said researchers learned a lot about the movements of Atlantic white sharks.
“We used to think of them as tending to be more of an open ocean animal that occasionally made forays to the coast but what we’ve seen is they’re more of a coastal animal that makes forays into the open ocean,” Frazier said. “That’s really what’s most intriguing to us is what those open ocean movements mean and that’s why we’re continuing to work with white sharks to kind of figure out their puzzle.”
Mary Lee’s tracker showed she spent a lot of time in coastal waters.
“Mary Lee, in particular, has had a high affinity for our coast while making a few open ocean movements,” Frazier said. “They’re using our waters as a coast overwintering grounds. In the summer months they’re further north or further offshore.
White sharks move as far north as coastal Maine or Nova Scotia in the summer and as far south as Florida in the winter.
Researchers believe the battery on Mary Lee’s transmitter died. Frazier said they would love to find her and affix a new tracking device, but the odds of finding a shark in the ocean are, well, you know the cliché.