great white

Residents and visitors of North Carolina’s Outer Banks are keeping a close eye on the water today. A 1,400-pound great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) was spotted mere minutes off the coast of Hatteras Island on March 9, 2023.

The shark was spotted using OCEARCH’s sophisticated tracking system. This nonprofit organization is committed to protecting the ocean’s apex predators and educating the public regarding their importance. When marine predators such as great white sharks decline in number, the rest of the ocean’s ecosystem is thrown out of balance. Great white sharks are critically important oceanic “balance keepers.”

The great white shark that just surfaced very close to the Outer Banks was named Breton by OCEARCH researchers. Breton was the first shark tagged during OCEARCH’s Expedition Nova Scotia 2020. The male great white shark was found and tagged off Cape Breton Island, and is named in honor of the island’s residents.

Since the shark’s tagging on September 12, 2020, Breton has patrolled the waters as far north as Newfoundland and Quebec’s Anticosti Island and as far south as the Turks and Caicos Islands.

But as past tracking data reveals, Breton is often found in North and South Carolina waters in February and March. The shark has shown up in these waters during late winter and early spring more than anywhere else since his tagging in 2020.

Breton’s last ping was on March 7, 2023, and showed the shark was far off the coast in open water. In the last two days, though, this male great white shark has made a direct line for the Outer Banks.

While the sighting of this shark is not necessarily cause for alarm, it should certainly raise awareness. There have been a very small number of shark attacks in the waters of North Carolina. Only 117 shark attacks have been documented in the state since the beginning of the 20th century, which works out to less than one per year. This is far fewer than the number of attacks in Florida each year. There were 16 shark attacks in Florida in 2022 alone.

Awareness is critical, though. While attacks are rare, great white sharks are still the apex predators of the ocean. When a 1,400-pound great white shark is in the area, it would be foolish to ignore it. Pay close attention to local reports and always be aware of your surroundings when visiting the beach.

The odds of a shark attack in North Carolina’s Outer Banks are very low, but that doesn’t mean the odds are zero. When we step into the ocean’s waters, we are visitors in a foreign world. That water is the home of the great white shark, one of the world’s most efficient and lethal apex predators.

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