GULF SHORES, Ala. (WKRG) — When you step into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, you’re stepping into the home of thousands of marine species, including blacktip sharks. Beachgoers have always known this, and sharks are frequently sighted all along the Gulf Coast, including this recent hammerhead shark sighting in Orange Beach, Ala.

But forget Hollywood movie tropes: sharks pose little risk for swimmers. Since 1900, there have been about 1,600 “unprovoked” shark attacks in the United States, or about 13 per year, according to SharkAttackData.com.

The blacktip shark species is the final species News 5 will be highlighting throughout Labor Day weekend. Follow the WKRG Shark Week Series on WKRG.com and on our Facebook.

To better understand the sharks who share the Gulf of Mexico waters with us, we invited Sean Powers, director of the USA School of Marine and Environmental Studies. Powers joined Caroline Carithers to tell us more about these fascinating Gulf denizens.

Here’s the full interview:

Caroline Carithers: Well, it’s Shark Week here at WKRG News five. And I’m here with Dr. Sean Powers, the director of USA School of Marine and Environmental Sciences. And he’s a senior marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab as well. So very, very qualified. And here he is here to talk about sharks found in the Gulf of Mexico. So thank you, Dr. Powers, for joining us today. So what shark will we be learning about today?

Sean Powers: First, the blacktip, which is a very common shark that we see in the beaches here.

CC: So it’s very common. So how can people see it on the beach? Can they see it if they’re boating? How often do they see them?

SP: So they’ll see it on the beach primarily in the summer. If they’re fishing, they might hook one. But they also occur in immense schools. I mean, all of sharks will migrate along the beach in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.

CC: So you’ll see them, a lot of them all at once. Yeah. So how big do they get?

SP: So they get about five to six foot. I mean, they’re not one of the great sharks that we call. So they’re more of a medium coastal show.

CC: Okay. And what do they eat? What’s their favorite thing?

SP: They mainly eat small fish invertebrates. Crabs, sometimes stingrays.

CC: And are they a threat? So are they sort to swimmers, maybe scuba divers or people run out of the ocean when they see one?

SP: Well, it’s always a good idea to avoid. Right. They do something called test by which they’re not looking to eat humans. But if they see something, especially something splash, and they’ll just take a test bite. So they don’t account they don’t account for many fatalities, but they do have some injuries. Associated with them.

CC: Oh, interesting. So a fun fact just about sharks in general. How many species of sharks are there?

SP: So there’s about 440 species in the Gulf of Mexico. We see about 50 species, which is amazing considering how small the Gulf is relative to the big ocean.

CC: That’s a lot.

SP: Yeah.

CC: That is a lot. So that is all about the blacktip shark. And thank you so much to Dr. Powers for joining us today.

SP: You’re welcome.

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