GPS Tracking Device Alerts of Great White 5 Miles Offshore

11 Mar 2014

Just in time for all the spring breakers heading to the beach, GPS tracking technology  is positioned to help to prevent great white shark attacks on the Florida shore.

Global positioning systems (GPS) can be beneficial for the visitors to the shores of Florida who like to go into the waters where there is a risk for great white shark attacks.

Thanks to a GPS tracking device, an alert helped local lifeguards keep the beach clear when a 14-foot-long shark came within only five short miles of shore. This is just too close, according to Brad Warner, a specialist for Volusia Beach Safety.

Among the various species of sharks on Florida’s shore, the great white is one of the most worrisome. It belongs to the species genus Carcharodon, the first species to attack humans. It is a great predator of the ocean, usually targeting seabirds and fish.

The great white generally migrates closer to the shore and has been nicknamed “White Death” by many locals. A recent study shows they often live as long as humans, usually around 70 years or more. They have also been responsible for many attacks near Daytona and Smyrna Beach, including a recent attack of two men who were only in knee-deep water.

Warner mentioned that being five miles offshore is the closest he has seen a great white shark come to the Volusia County coast, since it is usually populated by spinner sharks and bull sharks.

This shark has been near their Volusia County coast since August of 2013, and has been nicknamed “Katharine” by the nonprofit organization, Ocearch. It has been tracked throughout various shorelines across the Florida coast, including Daytona Beach, Jacksonville Beach, and New Smyrna Beach. This isn’t surprising, given New Smyrna Beach’s tagline of “Shark Bite Capital of the World.”

Ocearch tagged Katharine with a GPS tracking device when they first noticed it near their coast, and wanting to study its movements. The 2,300-pound great white shark is being tracked via real-time data that sends alerts to Warner’s cell phone. It’s movements are also posted publicly on various social media channels, including Twitter and Facebook, and on Ocearch’s website.

Once Warner got the most recent alert on his phone about the shark reaching the five-mile to shore mark, he watched it very closely to be sure it didn’t get any closer. With college students and tourists flocking to Daytona Beach during Spring Break, they will need to pay more attention to Katharine’s location in the ocean.

Great white sharks in the Volusia County area and near Daytona Beach have been tracked for a while in order to study them and provide advanced warning to lifeguards and beach patrol who might need to clear the beach to keep it safe. Katharine is one of many sharks being tracked by Ocearch, including a 2,292 pound great white shark named Genie tagged off the coast of Cape Cod on September 12, 2012.

On a related note, another shark being tracked with GPS named Lydia — who was first tagged with a GPS tracking device off of Jacksonville, FL — is thought to be the first documented shark to swim a trans-Atlantic route.

You can track Katharine and other sharks here.

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