HomeTop StoriesGreat white shark makes history after being spotted near South Padre Island

Great white shark makes history after being spotted near South Padre Island

Experts have identified a great white shark 200 yards off the coast of South Padre Island. Here’s what we know.

Meet LeeBeth

Don’t let her sweet name fool you! LeeBeth is a 14.1-foot, 2,600-pound female great white shark. According to Higher Calling Wildlife, a satellite tag was placed on her on December 8 by Captain Chip Michalove of Outcast Sport Fishing off the coast of South Carolina.

LeeBeth's unusual behavior has caught the attention of shark experts and researchers.

LeeBeth’s unusual behavior has caught the attention of shark experts and researchers.

Sharktivity: activity tracker for sharks

Michalove tagged LeeBeth for his research at the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. The mission of the AWCS is to “support scientific research, improve public safety, and educate the community to inspire white shark conservation.” Although the nonprofit generally focuses on the northwest Atlantic Ocean near Cape Cod, it monitors the wanderings of white sharks.

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“White sharks are apex predators that play a critical role in maintaining a healthy and balanced marine ecosystem,” the AWCS site explains. “They are also considered a keystone species, meaning they are an integral part of the ecology in which they live.”

The AWCS has created an Atlantic white shark sighting and tools app called “Sharktivity.” Using input from various research groups along the East Coast, Sharktivity collects data on shark activity from researchers, safety officials and members of the public. To ensure accuracy, the app requires uploading photos for confirmation.

Making history in the Gulf of Mexico

Although LeeBeth isn’t the first of the AWCS-tagged sharks to explore the Gulf of Mexico, she caught the attention of researchers when she headed straight for the southern tip of Texas.

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The AWCS reports that this is the westernmost point where a white shark has ever been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico, making the science of shark history.

“Most stopped around the Mississippi River, but LeeBeth kept going. She has traveled 2,000 miles since we caught her off Hilton Head,” Michalove said.

Investigators tracked LeeBeth's movements from Hilton Head, SC to South Padre Island, TX.Investigators tracked LeeBeth's movements from Hilton Head, SC to South Padre Island, Texas.

Investigators tracked LeeBeth’s movements from Hilton Head, SC to South Padre Island, Texas.

LeeBeth has also asserted herself by regularly appearing on the water’s surface – more often than most sharks.

“The tags only send a signal back to the satellite when the shark swims close to the surface and the fin breaks through the water. She pings a lot, so we can really see her movements,” Michalove said.

Great white sharks have been sighted in Texas waters since the 1950s, as documented in the 1963 book “Shadows In the Sea: Sharks, Skates & Rays.”

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Great white shark LeeBeth pings near South Padre Island, records show

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