Mary Lee: Great white shark spotted off coast of Florida - FOX 35 News Orlando

Mary Lee: Great white shark spotted off coast of Florida

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There's been a shark sighting in Florida waters, but this is not just any shark.

Her name is Mary Lee. She's a great white shark. And she is 16 feet long and weighs 3,456 pounds.

Last September, researchers from Ocearch, a nonprofit organization that studies oceans and fish, embarked on a project to tag two sharks off the coast of Cape Cod. The purpose of the project is to figure out how they live in order to better protect them.

They tagged Mary Lee and Genie.

This week, three months after their tagging, both sharks swam off the coast of Nassau County, just north of Jacksonville.

"We don't know if that's surprising or not," said Chris Fischer, Ocearch's chairman. "The fact is we're pioneering this research for the first time."

Fischer added it is a strange phenomenon to see both Mary Lee -- named after Fischer's mother -- and Genie popping up off of Florida's coastline.

"It's really odd to me that we only tagged two sharks in Cape Cod," Fischer said. "And both of those sharks are off Jacksonville. That's 100 percent of our sample size."

It's a  shark tale that has some local beachgoers talking.

"That is a scary thought," said Jennifer Earnest, a tourist visiting Daytona Beach from Tallahassee. "I would be running from that. I sure wouldn't be out there in that water."

But some local surfers told Fox 35 that the sighting in Jacksonville won't deter their moves.

"If we don't see it," said local surfer Aaron Fisher, "we're still going to surf."

Mary Lee turned out to be one of the most legendary catches in history.

"We're trying to solve the basic life history puzzle of where and when do they feed, where and when do they breed, and where and when do they give birth," Fischer said. "We want to protect those areas where they're vulnerable."

Fischer told Fox 35 that 73 million sharks are killed every year for human consumption. Fischer said it affects the balance of the ocean. He is hoping the project will help create awareness.

"Low and behold, she rolls into an area where there are big whales giving birth," Fischer said. "You think about it for a second, and you're like, of course she did! We just never knew it."

Scientists have suspected sharks swam south for the winter. Researchers say Mary Lee could stay in Florida's waters for the winter, adding that she could even head to Central Florida.

Ocearch plans to announce the location of their next tagging in a few weeks. Fischer said they are working on securing funding first.

"I think that anyone who has some degree of common sense can see that Genie and Mary Lee are screaming at us, telling us where we need to come next," Fischer said.

Track Mary Lee's movements online at Ocearch's global tracker or go to their Facebook page.

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