Great white sharks in the Lowcountry

OCEARCH tagging Mary Lee (Courtesy: OCEARCH)

By Sonya

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Mary Lee and Genie are both great white sharks that have spent time off our coast over the past several weeks.

We know they are here thanks to cutting edge technology by OCEARCH, a non-profit organization that focuses on studying the ocean's giants.

"We are the only people in the world that have the capacity to lift these giant great white sharks out of the water, not just to tag them, but that does allow us to put the latest technology on their fin, a spot tag, so every time they come finning it beams their location," said Chris Fischer, founding chairman of OCEARCH.

Once its dorsal fin comes out of the water, that location is sent from a satellite into the lab and then onto a website, which is shared with the public. Tracking is just a portion of the organization's mission - It's also about learning.

"The purpose of this research, generally speaking, is to solve the life history puzzle of the great white shark, which we don't know," said Fischer. "Believe or not we don't know when and where they feed, breed, or give birth."

While there is a lot that we don't know about the species, we do know that they come to the area.

"We know that great whites come to the Lowcountry every winter. They migrate down in about November and they are here through as late as April or May," said Bryan Frazier, marine biologist with DNR.

They are occasionally spotted, in fact a 12 or 13 foot great white, not Mary Lee or Genie, was spotted by a charter fishing vessel on Nov. 5, but the question still remains - Why are they here?

"What we think is that they potentially followed the Wright Whale migration down and when they come across a stranded whale or a carcass then they predate upon it," said Frazier. "They could also be following other shark species down."

There are still so many questions, but with the world's best fishermen and scientists working together with OCEARCH, answers about this large ocean giant can slowly be answered.

To track Mary Lee, Genie, or other tagged great white sharks, click HERE.