Thursday, November 7, 2013

Photo: Did the Famed Great White Mary Lee Have Part of This Dolphin for Lunch?

To many people who live along the eastern coast of the US, Mary Lee has become a bit of a celebrity.  For folks who don't know, Mary Lee is a 3,500 pound, 16 foot great white that was tagged with a satellite tracker last year by OCEARCH.  Since that time, the world has been closely watching her movements.

Mary Lee's location in proximity to where dead dolphin washed up on shore
What has made Mary Lee so fascinating compared to the other east coast tagged sharks is that she appears to enjoy staying close to shore in the winter months.  During the summer, she moved farther out to sea off the GA/NC border.  But as soon as the water temps began to drift down, she came to life and began moving up the coast towards North Carolina.

Last month, she spent a few days in the Cape Fear region and made a very close pass by Carolina Beach, NC and reportedly was spotted by an area fisherman.

Now fast forward to yesterday, Mary Lee pinged very close to shore in St. Helena Sound in South Carolina. According to area fishermen who know the waters, that area is known for having abundant fish life and is 50+ feet deep in many spots.

Dolphin bitten in half by apparent shark. - Pic by Mark Gray
Today, Mark Gray posted a photo on the Beaufort Online Facebook page of this dolphin which had washed up on the beach at Hunting Island Lighthouse which as you can see, is very close to where Mary Lee had pinged.

Of course there are many sharks in the sea and any large shark could be responsible for this bite but you have to admit, the timing of it all is rather intriguing.

We should note that numerous dolphins along the east coast of the U.S. have been dying due to an outbreak of a measles-like virus called morbillivirus. The deaths began in the Northeast but have been spreading farther south and just last month, a infected dolphin washed up on the beach at Hilton Head, SC.

It does make us wonder if this dolphin possibly had the virus and was therefore easy prey? And if it did have the virus, did that impact the shark from not consuming the entire dolphin?  Did it possibly affect the taste of the meat?  Lots of questions, yet we don't have any answers.  But fortunately, OCEARCH is attempting to get more information on the death of the dolphin and we'll post an update here if more information comes out.

EDIT 11/08: We received word from Walt who runs Beaufort Online and he advised us that the photo was actually from Folly Beach and was taken on 11/01/2013.  For some reason, the photo was posted to his page with erroneous information.  

Sooo, with that said, it would appear that Ms. Mary Lee is most likely exonerated from this horrific mammal crime. We apologize for any inconvenience or nightmares this story may have caused and we extend our thanks to Walt for setting the record straight.


Also, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reached out to OCEARCH and confirmed that there were many ‘half’ dolphins found in the area in the past few weeks which led OCEARCH to ask on their Facebook page if there could be other white sharks migrating through that area?