JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The ocean's apex predator has been spotted off the First Coast several times in the last year and University of North Florida Shark researchers are hoping to learn why.
"We know that white sharks have been using this area for thousands of years," said University of North Florida Shark Biology Program Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Jim Gelsleichter.
Now, UNF's Shark researchers are recording visits from tagged great whites.
About 20 white sharks were tagged with acoustic tags in Massachusetts by the state's Division of Marine Fisheries and are detected when swimming past an acoustic receiver, but the nonprofit organization OCEARCH tagged five additional sharks with satellite tags, giving up-to-the minute tracking information every time the shark comes to the surface.
Gelsleichter said researchers believed the white sharks migrate south during the winter and go back north for the summers, but the data is revealing more.
"By looking at Mary Lee's track, we're able to determine that the movements are way more dynamic than that," said Dr. Gelsleichter.
Sixteen-foot Mary Lee is the great white tracked within the surf zone of Jacksonville Beach in January of 2013. Two months later, OCEARCH tagged 14 foot Lydia about a mile off of Mayport.
"It's pretty interesting just to identify what the movement patterns of this animal is as well as why they go where they go," added Gelsleichter.
Dr. Gelsleichter has been interested in sharks since he was young; he has been researching sharks for 20 years and somewhere down the line you'd think there would be a shark tale.
"I haven't been bitten by a shark," he laughed. "I have no war stories so to speak to tell of."
The stories he's really telling are coming from research, he says, will bring great benefits.
You can track the great whites tagged by OCEARCH byclicking here.
UNF currently has three acoustic receivers off the coast of Jacksonville. The program plans to add seven to ten more.