Large Great White Shark Breton Tracked About 40 Miles From Bodie Island

A famous 13-foot-long great white shark has been tracked near Bodie Island, just off the coast of Albemarle Sound near the North Carolina/Virginia border.

Breton, the 1,400-pound great white, can be seen moving northward along the East Coast via research nonprofit Ocearch's tracking platform. As of Tuesday, Breton was moving into waters about 40 miles off Virginia, previously pinging off North Carolina's Pamlico Sound on August 6 and deeper waters off the South Carolina coast on August 2. On June 6, he was tracked as far south as Port St. Lucie in Florida.

great white shark
Breton, a great white shark, is moving northward along the U.S. East Coast. Above, a great white off the coast of South Africa. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Breton was tagged by Ocearch off Nova Scotia in 2020 and was named after the area where he was captured: Cape Breton. Since 2020, Ocearch has tracked Breton's movements up and down the East Coast, showing his migrations with the seasons.

Breton recently gained notoriety for somehow drawing a picture with his tracking path that resembles a shark.

Great whites, which can grow up to around 20 feet long, are found all over the world in subarctic waters, with a relatively large population residing off the East Coast. The sharks follow seasonal patterns of migrating, swimming from Canada and New England at the height of summer and down to Florida in the winter months.

During autumn and spring, great whites are usually found in a broader range of places along the coast.

Breton can be seen to have generally followed this pattern of migration, spending late summer last year off the Canadian coast before swimming down to Florida around December 2021. As the most recent pings show, he is en route to the northern waters for the summer.

Ocearch tags sharks and other animals, including seals and dolphins, by capturing them with handlines and gently lifting them onto the research vessel. Hoses pump a continuous flow of seawater over their gills, allowing the sharks to still absorb oxygen and remain calm.

The Ocearch researchers tag the animals and take blood and tissue samples to study such factors as reproductive cycles, diet, inorganic and organic contaminant loads (e.g., plastics) and parasites.

This research aids scientists in protecting these endangered species from threats that exacerbate their endangered status.

Great whites are classified as "vulnerable" according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List and have seen a reduction in population worldwide by between 30 and 49 percent over the past 150 or so years.

This population decline is mostly due to overfishing and other human actions. Many people hunt great white sharks for their valuable jaws, teeth and skin, and fins. Plastic pollution in the oceans, 11 million metric tons of which enters the oceans each year, is also a driver of population declines because of entanglements and consumption.

These problems are made worse by the fact that great whites, like most sharks, are slow-growing and produce very few young, meaning that their populations struggle to recover once numbers become low.

However, it appears that efforts to protect great whites have resulted in a rise in populations off the East Coast.

"Due to conservation efforts, these sharks are making a comeback," Chris Paparo, a shark expert at Stony Brook University, previously told New York news station WNBC in reference to a surge in great white sightings off the New Jersey coast.

Humans don't need to worry about these conservation successes resulting in more shark attacks, however. The risk of an unprovoked shark bite is extremely low, especially considering the enormous number of people entering the oceans across the globe annually.

In North Carolina, where Breton is currently, only around 70 shark attacks have been recorded since 1935.