Enormous Great White Shark Is Now Just 20 Miles From North Carolina Coast

A great white shark weighing almost 1,500lbs and measuring over 13 feet in length has been tracked to just 20 miles from the coast of North Carolina.

Breton is a male great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) that was first tagged by ocean research group OCEARCH in September 2020. The group fits great whites with satellites so they can see their location when they breach the surface. This allows researchers to better understand the endangered species' movements and habits in a bid to better protect it.

Breton belongs to a great white shark population that lives along the east coast of the U.S. and Canada.

In October 2021, he went as far north as the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada, north of Nova Scotia. Then, as winter weather approached, the shark made its way down along the east coast to Florida by December—a distance of roughly 1,500 miles.

Great white sharks in the Atlantic Ocean make this migration annually, spending summers in northern waters and winters in the south.

Breton shark
A photo showing Breton, a white shark, being observed and tagged by researchers back in 2020. Breton has since been tracked travelling up and down the east coast of North America. Ocearch/R. Snow

Breton was most recently spotted via his location tracker on May 16, roughly 20 miles or so from the North Carolina coast near the Bald Head Island Natural Area close to the border of South Carolina.

This is less than a week after he pinged off the Cape Hatteras National Seashore on May 10. This is 160 miles further north than Bald Head Island.

Despite his proximity to shore, great whites pose little risk to humans. Last year, there were 47 shark attacks across the whole of the U.S., with one fatality.

Great white shark migration patterns

Breton's movements are similar to those observed in another male great white shark that OCEACH has been tracking named Ironbound. OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer told NBC News that the sharks may have hit cold water trapped against beaches and thought: "'Oh man, it's too early.'"

As summer approaches, great whites start migrating north to feed on seals in the waters off Canada and the northern U.S states.

"They've got to wait for the water temperature to get warm enough so when they slide in there to eat the seals that it's not so cold that the energy to stay warm exceeds the energy they get from the seal," Fischer said.

OCEARCH gathers data on sharks to help scientists research them. The group says their research is important for global conservation and public safety and that great white sharks are "central to the functioning of ecosystems and the maintenance of biodiversity."

great white shark
Stock image of a great white shark. The species is endangered and OCEARCH fits them with satellites to better understand their behavior and migration patterns. Getty Images

The great white shark is the world's biggest predatory fish. The largest individuals can exceed 20 feet in length and weigh more 5,000 pounds according to the encyclopedia Britannica—though most weigh between 1,500 and 4,000 pounds.

Great white sharks are considered to be among the three shark species most likely to attack humans along with bull sharks and tiger sharks according to National Geographic. They are also an iconic species due to its occurrence in near-shore habitats and appearance in films and documentaries.

At the same time, great whites are listed as vulnerable by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) which notes that their numbers are decreasing due to years of hunting for fins and teeth, as a trophy for sport fishing, and accidental bycatch.