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July 14, 2021

Just in time for Shark Week, a behemoth great white made a stop off the Cape May coast

Breton, a large male, was tracked near the Jersey Shore by the nonprofit research organization OCEARCH

Wildlife Sharks
Breton Shark Week OCEARCH @OCEARCH/Facebook

Berton, a male great white shark measureing 13 feet and 1,437 pounds, was tracked off the coast of Cape May, New Jersey on July 12, 2021.

The annual tradition of Shark Week is now in its 32nd year, putting a spotlight on the wonders of the sea's fiercest predators.

How Americans came to be so ritually fascinated with sharks is a curious cultural evolution in its own right, but the true value of Shark Week is that it reinforces the need for education about sharks. From the overblown dangers they pose to humans to the ecological threats some shark species face from humans, one week each July goes a long way toward shaping public perception and appreciation of them.

One the world's leading shark research organizations is OCEARCH, a data-centric nonprofit that leads expeditions to tag and track shark movements. OCEARCH has nearly 200 scientists and has tagged more than 400 animals since its first expedition in 2007, helping expand our knowledge of their behavior and biology to promote better policies.

Over the years, OCEARCH has tracked a number of great white sharks that frequent areas off the coast of the Jersey Shore. Among the most well-known was Mary Lee, a mature female shark who measured 16 feet long and a whopping 3,456 pounds. Estimated to be about 50 years old, Mary Lee's size earned her the title "Matriarch of the Sea."

OCEARCH lost track of Mary Lee in 2018, seemingly because the battery on her tracker, which sends location pings to scientists, seems to have died. Great whites usually live to about 60 years old, so there's a good chance Mary Lee is still out there enjoying her twilight years.

But among the many sharks who have traveled the Atlantic Coast in Mary Lee's wake, the waters off of Cape May were visited on Monday by Breton, a male great white who measures 13 feet and 1,437 pounds. OCEARCH record the ping on and shared the news on social media, where the nonprofit has been posting all kinds of information and videos about sharks this week.

Breton has officially started his move North! This 13ft, 1,437lb male white shark is currently off of Cape May,...

Posted by OCEARCH on Monday, July 12, 2021

Named after the island of Cape Breton, the great white was first tracked off the coast of Nova Scotia last September. He's expected to head up north again, where OCEARCH has led research into the area's importance in the Northwest Atlantic, as well as in the area around Cape Cod.

In May, OCEARCH tracked a female great white named Martha – about 7 feet in length – off the coast of Asbury Park and as far south as Long Beach Island. Another female sub-adult great white shark named Andromache also was tracked miles off the South Jersey coast in late May, as far south as Avalon and as far north as Surf City. Andromache measures about 10 feet, 8 inches in length.

Shark Week will continue all week with specials on Discovery Channel until July 18.