Scientists track two great white sharks in N.C.

Scientist tracking two great white sharks

CURRITUCK -- Scientists are tracking two great white sharks swimming very close to the Outer Banks. One of them was recently located in the Pamlico Sound.

"A shark is a shark! I don't care if they're little, or 33 feet long, it's still a shark and it's something to respect and stay clear of," Outer Banks resident Julia Scheer said.

Scheer is closely watching the movements of sharks, Genie and Katharine, live online, through non-profit research organization, Ocearch.

"It's nice to know where they are, so you know to avoid the water for that day," she said.

Katharine was recently spotted several miles east of the Outer Banks. She also made an appearance in the Pamlico Sound back in January. Genie was located in the sound just a few days ago.

"Every time she pings, it pops up, and it's like 'oh look!' About a week or so ago she was in the sound. I found that interesting, that she wasn't in the open water," Scheer said.

Scientists studying their movements say it's unusual for great whites to travel into shallow waters. Dr. Greg Skomal is the chief scientist who captured, studied and tracked these sharks.

"One thing I noticed about Genie's position is that she's not too far from a major inlet. She's in relatively shallow water -- probably near the mouth of that inlet. These inlets are very productive zones. Anytime where you have an inlet where a huge estuary like Pamlico Sound is emptying out into the ocean, you get really high productivity. There's ample food that's probably drawing the sharks to that very active productive area," he said.

The great whites' movements are documented each time the sharks' fins break the surface, sending a signal to satellites. But according to Dr. Skomal, these pings do have a margin of error, and it's possible that the sharks are not actually in the sound, but just outside of it.

"Just because a little dot shows up on a satellite image, that shark may not be there 10 minutes later. Yes, we are learning patterns of behavior, patterns of movement, and we can give you a sense of when and where the sharks might be in certain times of the year. These positions may not be exact-- in other words, they could be off by several miles," Dr. Skomal said.

Katharine has been up and down the coastline of the U.S., passing very close to the Outer Banks each year, since she was tagged. According to Dr. Skomal, North Carolina is a hub of activity for sharks in certain times of the year. But he notes, it shouldn't be used to alter anyone's behavior.

"Folks, when they go into the ocean need to be mindful of presence of dangerous animals. But I don't think anyone should have a knee jerk reaction to the presence of this one shark. Just use good old fashioned common sense," he said.

"You don't swim at dusk, which is when they feed. You don't go into the ocean with open cuts and shiny jewelry," Scheer said.



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