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 Bull 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.
Read 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. He’s also a senior marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and he’s here to talk about different sharks in the Gulf of Mexico. So which shark are we covering today?
Sean Powers: We’re going to talk about the bull shark.
CC: Okay. The bull shark. So how common is it or people going to see it if they’re swimming or fishing, that type of thing?
SP: Yes, they will. The bull shark is very common in all wars. It’s actually specialized for the low salinity areas that we have all along the Alabama coast.
CC: So rivers.
SP: So, yes, so they’ve reported this shark as far north as Saint Louis in the Mississippi River. And it’s not uncommon for this to go up to Alabama or the big, big.
CC: Okay. So how big does it get?
SP: So a big shark would be about 400 pounds.
CC: 400 pounds. And how many feet.
SP: Are about ten feet?
CC: Ten feet long.
SP: So it’s an impressive animal.
CC: So what does it eat? What’s its favorite meal?
SP: So it will eat just about anything. It is really a scavenger. It’s very opportunistic. So we’re really big fish and it’s really aggressive. So it’s also one of the ones that swimmers need to be afraid of.
CC: So that was my next question. Is it a threat to swimmers or divers or anything like this based on this and how big this is? I feel like it would be so bold.
SP: Sharks are very aggressive. Plus, they operate in really turbid waters. So, yes, they’re implicated in the most fatalities and bite of all sharks.
CC: Oh, wow. Okay, so this is its jaw, correct?
SP: That is the jaw. An interesting thing. People think of the Great White as being the strongest shark, right? This one has the biggest bite force at about 1300 pound feet forever. Into alligators. About 2000. Oh, wow. So, I mean, it is. It’s significant.
CC: It’s that I’m looking at the rows of teeth on this. There’s many of them.
SP: And we should say, I mean, obviously shark attacks aren’t very common, but when they do occur, most likely around here, it’s going to be a bull shark.
CC: Gotcha. Well, thank you so much, Dr. Sean Powers, for joining us for WKRG. News 5 Shark Week.