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 bonnethead 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.
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. He’s the director of the U.S. School of Marine and Environmental Sciences. And he’s a senior marine scientist at the Dolphin Island Sea Lab. And he is here to talk about sharks most commonly found in the Gulf of Mexico. So which shark are we talking about today?
Sean Powers: The bonnethead.
CC: The bonnethead sharks. So how common is the bonnethead shark?
SP: So it’s very common in inshore waters, in the bays, maybe a little bit on the front beaches fishermen will encounter quite often.
CC: What about swimmers?
SP: Swimmers will if they’re in the back bay around seagrass and things like.
CC: That, Okay, so how big do they get? How big we talking?
SP: So this is another small shark. This is about four feet as max. They’re also very social sharks. So they you’ll see them in four or five individuals in a little school.
CC: Okay. So what do they eat? What’s their favorite thing to eat?
SP: So bonnetheads eat crustacean otherwise known as shrimp and crabs. We have ours. Yeah, ours really specialize on blue crabs. They can really kind of eat a tremendous number of blue crabs.
CC: Okay. So I think the big question is what are they a threat to swimmers, scuba divers, that kind of thing.
SP: They’re really not. There are hammerhead they’re in the hammerhead family, so their mouth is really underneath them. So you would have to work pretty hard to get bit by a bottom here.
CC: Okay. So not a huge threat.
SP: Yeah. And a lot of aquariums where you pet the rays, they also have bonnet heads there.
CC: Oh, okay. So what is your favorite shark fact.
SP: About the bonnethead? Is how social it is. A lot of sharks are very aggressive and not very social with each other. The boneheads are extremely social with each other.
CC: Oh, awesome. So that is all about the bonnethead shark. Thank you to Dr. Sean Powers for joining us today. Thank you.