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Not unusual to see sharks swimming near the coast this time of the year

Posted at 5:24 PM, Apr 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-22 16:59:49-04

Hampton Roads, Va. - Great white sharks have gotten a lot of people's attention recently.  In fact, several of these big fish have been spotted swimming near our coast.

"This is certainly a time of the year we would fully expect there to be white sharks off of North Carolina," said Dr. Gregory Skomal, Senior Marine Fisheries Scientist for the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries.

Skomal also works with several scientists at Ocearch, a company that studies the health and behavior of sharks by tagging them.

"The process is pretty extensive, but we only really have the sharks for only about 15 minutes, and then we let them go," said Skomal.

In that short time, scientists attach a transmitter to a shark's dorsal fin.  When the shark swims to the surface of the water, the transmitter will send a signal to a satellite to show the shark's location.

In recent weeks, a few great white sharks have been found off our coast.  A great white named Katharine has not transmitted a signal since the first week of April when she was located near the North Carolina coast.

In April, another shark that recently swam several miles east of the Outer Banks, named Mary Lee, has been on the move.  In fact, she has traveled more than 16,000 miles, and her journey continues. Most recently, she pinged off the coast of the upper Eastern Shore.

"We don't know exactly.  We can't pin it down to anything in particular, but certainly those waters offer ample opportunities for these sharks to feed.  Obviously, the water temperatures are conducive to them being comfortable," said Skomal.

Another great white named Genie grabbed a lot of people's attention recently.  She appeared to be swimming near the Pamlico Sound.  However, Skomal says her location may have been an error.

"It's entirely possible that the shark wasn't actually in the Sound and may have been just outside of it.  I think it would be unusual if the shark were to go in there.  But it's certainly possible.  My guess is that she was somewhere near one of the inlets close to the Sound or just inside the Sound and likely feeding in that area," said Skomal.

Skomal says their research has shown how unique shark movements really are and how often those sharks lurk in our waters.

"There was a time when only scientists would see data coming in, and we live in a time now where the general public and folks in general can watch as science unfolds.  Pretty exciting," said Skomal.

Click here to track these sharks and others with Ocearch.

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Great white sharks creating a buzz along the North Carolina coast