A 16-foot great white shark named Mary Lee continues to be tracked along the U.S. East Coast.
The Ocearch Shark Tracker reported that the 3,500-pound shark was just off the coast of the Virginia and North Carolina border early Thursday.
Mary Lee was captured and tagged in September off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass. and has since been tracked as far south as the northeastern coast of Florida near Jacksonville.
The shark has been lingering off the coast of the Carolinas for several months now but has since made some progress back to the north.
Mary Lee is one of only two mature North Atlantic great white sharks ever tagged and publicly tracked, said Chris Fischer, 44, a businessman, adventure show producer and founder of Ocearch.
Mary Lee’s name comes from Fischer’s mother.
“My parents have done so much. I was waiting and waiting for a special shark to name after her and this is truly the most historic and legendary fish I have ever been a part of and it set the tone for Cape Cod," he said.
The other, named Genie, was tagged off Cape Cod, Mass., in September about the same time and place as Mary Lee.
Genie is currently roaming in waters farther south. Meanwhile, Mary Lee, the larger of the two, has attracted the larger following, Fischer said.
"This puts facts behind the fear," Fischer said. "We are all seeing her in real time. We are pouring the world's oceans into people's homes."
Fisher says tens of thousands of people are following Mary Lee's travels online.
"She is cruising around where the water is most comfortable and where there is food," Fischer said.
He said he expects her to remain in more southern waters, rather than continue northward.
Fischer started doing shark expeditions in 2007 before creating the nonprofit Ocearch in 2011.
The organization supports scientists and institutions researching the biology, life histories and health of sharks.
Ocearch teams have tagged sharks on 15 expeditions, including ventures off South Africa; Guadalupe Island off the Baja California Peninsula in the Pacific; and Cape Cod.
Crews tag the sharks, take blood samples, collect parasites and bacteria, and gather reproductive information, among other things of the surrounding environment, Fischer said.
The work is done by approved protocols and overseen by scientists, he added.
An avid offshore sports fisherman, Fischer calls the shark the "lion of the ocean" and says its survival is crucial to the health of the marine habitat.
"If we lose them, the ecology tanks," he said.
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