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Great White Shark Repeatedly Spotted off Florida Coast

May 12, 2014 03:37 PM EDT

A massive great white shark was spotted swimming off the coast of Florida this past week, making its way farther and farther south. The shark, dubbed "Katherine," is one of several dozen sharks currently being tracked by the OCEARCH research team. OCEARCH said this year has been a "slow" shark year.

Katherine was recently spotted 12 miles off the coast of Florida, raising some alarm among residents of Daytona Beach, and later Palm Bay and Vero Beach. The 14-ft. long great white shark has been gradually making her way south since she was tagged by the OCEARCH team in Cape Cod last August. On her way, she has become somewhat of a celebrity, with East Coast residents tweeting about the shark and even jokingly tweeting directly to her after one fan made the shark her own twitter account.

Katherine has also become something of a media darling, with headlines like "She's Back!" serving as enough for Florida residents to know what the article is about.

What is likely making Katherine so popular this year is the fact that she is one of only a few sharks to have made appearances these past few months. According to the OCEARCH team who tagged and tracks Katherine, this has been a particularly slow shark season, where only about 12 sightings have been made around Florida so far.

Jim Gelsleichter, a shark researcher from the University of North Florida, told The Daytona Beach News-Journal that 12 sightings is very small, considering it is common for great whites and other sharks to spend their winter months in the coastal water of Florida. The state usually gets a minimum of 20 sightings, but, Gelsleichter admits, that number can be misleading as multiple shark sightings can be of one shark as it makes its way south.

This may not happen so much this year, as the OCEARCH team can quickly verify if a sighting is Katherine or one of their other tagged sharks, using a GPS tracking system embedded into each shark's tag.

It's this same system that has let the team know that it's not just Katherine who is taking the spotlight.

"Mary Lee," a 16-foot white shark also tagged off the coast of Cape Cod came so close to Florida beaches earlier last August that OCEARCH actually felt obliged to call authorities in Florida to warn them of her presence, according to The Verge.

A total of 47 sharks in all are being tracked across the world thanks to the OCEARCH initiative. For the most part, these sharks appear to avoid drawing too close to the coasts, where commercial fishing and swimming occur.

You can track Katherine, Mary Lee, and numerous other sharks via the OCEARCH shark tracker.

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