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Great White Shark Tracked Off Long Island

mary-lee
Mary Lee was tagged by scientists off Cape Cod three years ago (Photo courtesy of OCEARCH)

Shark Week has come early to Long Island.

A 16-foot, 3,456-pound Great White shark named Mary Lee is swimming about two to three miles off the coast of Jones Beach and Fire Island on Tuesday before swimming farther offshore the next day, according to researchers that are tracking her.

“After a quick jaunt at the Jersey Shore, great white shark Mary Lee continues north,” OCEARCH, the nonprofit group of scientists that tagged her, said on its Facebook page. “Where do you think she might be going? New York, New York or Cape Cod, Massachusetts?”

READ MORE: Does Long Island Need a Shark Alert System?

Mary Lee started swimming eastbound past Jones Beach after turning right off the east end of Long Beach at 5:40 a.m. Tuesday, pinged again at 8:37 a.m. off the Fire Island Inlet and then pinged a third time off Robert Moses State Park on FI at 10:36 a.m., the tracker shows. She then doubled back and pinged at 5:31 a.m. Wednesday farther off Jones Beach before zig-zagging shortly before noon, when she was tracked swimming southeast away from LI off the coast of Montauk.

Since OCEARCH tagged Mary Lee off Cape Cod on Sept. 12, 2012, she has swam nearly 20,000 miles from New England to Florida to Bermuda and back again, the group said. The tracking device attached to her dorsal fin records her location whenever she surfaces long enough to send a signal to GPS satellites.

The web-savvy shark has a Twitter profile tweeting locations where her GPS tracking device pings. Researchers believe that she may have recently given birth. She last visited LI when she pinged off the coast of East Patchogue in January 2013, her tracker shows.

OCEARCH tracks dozens of sharks besides Mary Lee in an effort to better understand the protected species, as well as improve public awareness of the predators made infamous by Jaws, in which the character Captain Quint was based on Frank Mundus, the legendary Montauk shark fisherman-turned-conservationist.

Although there have been no reported surface sightings of Mary Lee, it is not uncommon for various species of sharks to swim off the coast of LI. A dying basking shark washed up in 2009, several harmless basking sharks forced a brief swimming ban in Westhampton Beach in 2011 and another shark was spotted off Atlantic Beach in 2013. Dolphins that were mistaken for sharks also caused a scare at Robert Moses State Park two years ago.

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