Real-Life 'Jaws' Off Hamptons: Track The 3,500-Pound Great White Shark Here

By Jason Van Hoven on January 31, 2013 10:00 AM EST

Real-life "Jaws" off the Hamptons
A member of the Ocearch team "tags" Mary Lee, a great white shark that many consider a real-life "Jaws." She was sighted off the Hamptons recently. (Photo: Mike Estabrook / OCEARCH)

A real-life "Jaws" off the Hamptons was sighted on Wednesday afternoon about 40 to 45 nautical miles off Montauk Point in Long Island, according to Southampton Patch.

The real-life "Jaws" off the Hamptons, a great white shark named Mary Lee, was tracked near the South Fork shoreline by Ocearch, a Utah-based nonprofit organization that "tagged" the shark and is using real-time technology to track it in order to learn more about the animal that inspired the Steven Spielberg infamous film "Jaws." Mary Lee's movements can be tracked on Ocearch website here

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Tagging, according to Ocearch's founding chairman Chris Fischer, is a complex 15-minute process involving both researchers and skilled fishermen whereby a shark is caught and then brought aboard Ocearch's vessel using a heavy-duty 50,000-pound lift, followed by covering its eyes and inserting a hose into the mouth. The shark is released afterwards.

Before being spotted close to Montauk, Ocearch first tagged the real-life "Jaws" off the Hamptons on Sept. 12, 2012, in Cape Cod, and since then, the 16-foot, 3,456-pound great white (also known as carcharodon carcharias) has made her way down the coast to St. Augustine, Fla., where she was recorded on Jan. 9. Mary Lee then started her journey back up the east coast on Jan. 10 until she was "pinged" off the coast of Quogue on Tuesday at 6:04 p.m., according to Ocearch's tracking map.

Fischer said that "pings" are received every time a tagged shark's dorsal fin protrudes the water line, which one would think is of particular concern, especially when a shark is close to shore like Mary Lee. However, Petty Officer Patrick Rogers at Coast Guard Station Shinnecock said there was no cause for concern. She was heading away from the coast. As of right now, she looks to be very far away.

Rogers said it was the first time he ever came across a great white shark while tracking the waters close to the Hamptons. Nevertheless, that's unsurprising to Fischer given that Mary Lee has become a "sensation" along the eastern seaboard since being tagged.

"Most of the sharks we have tagged swim out in the ocean and we don't hear from them much, but Mary Lee is super coastal -- people are following her everyday," he said. "Until now, many researchers have never gotten up close to a great white. And Mary Lee is the first shark in history we are able to track like this."

Fischer also said that Mary Lee is the second of two Atlantic Ocean great white sharks that Ocearch has tagged -- the first was Genie, who was last pinged in Savannah, Ga., on Jan. 19. Tracking both Mary Lee and Genie, her sister shark, will allow researchers to learn more.

"We don't even know where they breed," Fischer said. "We have no way of telling how old a great white is without cutting into its spinal cord and counting it like rings on a tree."

Ocearch has tagged about 35 sharks to date around the world, but none have given away their whereabouts as much as Mary Lee.

Besides just learning more about the great white, Fischer also hopes to dispel the myth of "Jaws," which was purportedly inspired by Montauk shark fishing legend Frank Mundus.

"We hope people become more enlightened and a conversation is started, especially since we opened up this tracker for the world to see," he said. "When we think of a great white, we usually think of 'Jaws' music, but now people are asking what is she doing? Where is she going?"

Fischer also hopes that Ocearch's research will affect policy around the world one day, given that the organization also offers an educational program for schools that intertwines math with its tracking system.

"Seventy-three million sharks are finned for soup every year," he said. "If we remove them from the system, the system will collapse."

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