Huge 1,500lb Great White Shark Tracked off Florida Coast

A great white shark weighing nearly 1,500 pounds has "pinged" off the eastern coast of Florida.

The shark, known as "Breton," was previously fitted with a tracking device by marine research organization OCEARCH.

The tag "pings" every time the shark's dorsal fin breaks the surface of the water. Whenever this happens, the device emits a signal, enabling OCEARCH scientists to pinpoint its location.

Breton's latest ping occurred on July 24, when the shark was located in the Atlantic Ocean around 60 miles east of Anastasia Island on Florida's east coast. The shark's previous ping on July 12 was slightly further to the south along the Florida coast.

The great white shark Breton
Breton aboard the OCEARCH research vessel. The shark's tracking device pinged off the coast of Florida on July 24. OCEARCH/R. Snow

Breton is a 13.3-foot adult male great white shark that weighs 1,437 pounds. OCEARCH scientists first tagged him on September 12, 2020, in Canadian waters near Cape Breton in the province of Nova Scotia.

OCEARCH researchers named the shark after the island of Cape Breton, which lies at the eastern end of the province.

Breton is the fifth shark OCEARCH tagged at Scatarie Island, which lies just off Cape Breton Island, in two years of working in the area.

Since being tagged, Breton has traveled an incredible distance of around 19,500 miles, according to OCEARCH. For context, this is equivalent to around four-fifths of the Earth's circumference.

In the period that OCEARCH has been tracking him, Breton has spent time swimming along the southeastern U.S. coastline, while also making forays deeper into the Atlantic, and hanging out in the waters near Cape Breton.

"Since [being tagged] he has ranged nearly 20,000 miles from Nova Scotia, where we tagged him, to the east coast of Florida," OCEARCH Chief Scientist Bob Hueter told Newsweek.

"He has spent quite a lot of time offshore in the Western Atlantic, at one point even circling Bermuda. This is somewhat atypical for adult male white sharks in the Western North Atlantic, which tend to spend most of their time on or near the continental shelf from Atlantic Canada to the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The long, looping forays offshore are more typical of adult females—but Breton was definitely a male!"

According to Hueter, Breton has lingered in southeastern U.S. waters longer into the summer than most of the other white sharks OCEARCH is tracking.

"We don't know what this means and are watching his movements closely. In general, his movements over the past nearly two years have been somewhat unusual compared to his conspecifics in the Western North Atlantic," he said.

OCEARCH has been tagging sharks all around the world since 2007. The data collected in that time revealed that Nova Scotia is an important hotspot for great whites in the Northwest Atlantic, in addition to Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

White sharks congregate in Nova Scotia and Cape Cod every year in the late summer and fall to feed on the abundance of seals—and other prey—that are not available along the southeast coast where they spend the rest of the year.

The tracking data OCEARCH researchers have collected suggests that there may be two sub-populations of great white sharks in the Northwest Atlantic, which use either the Cape Cod or Nova Scotia feeding sites.

OCEARCH experts use a modified drumline to catch sharks before guiding them back to the research vessel. This ship is fitted with a special lift that is used to carry sharks onto the deck. Once there, researchers take a variety of samples and fit the animals with a tracking device

Earlier this year, social media users noted how Breton's tracking path on the OCEARCH website had inadvertently produced an image that looked uncannily like a shark.

Update 08/01/22, 9:32 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comments from Bob Hueter.