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 Great White 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 great white shark species is the fifth of eight 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. He’s the director of the U.S. School of Marine and Environmental Sciences. And he’s also a senior marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and he knows all things about sharks. So he’s here to talk to us about different types of sharks that are found in the Gulf of Mexico.

CC: So thanks for joining us today. Which type are we talking about?

Sean Powers: So this is the great white shark.

CC: Is the.

SP: One that’s scary. Jaws is based.

CC: Okay. So how common are they here along the Gulf Coast?

SP: So they’re not very common in the Gulf of Mexico. We get them occasionally. We have a lot of trackers on sharks and the most we’ve ever seen is about nine in the entire Gulf of Mexico. There could be much further off shore. So if anything, a threat to divers, maybe but really much deeper water than that.

CC: So how big do they get? I feel like it’s big.

SP: So 20 feet is is it is the largest predatory fish in the ocean. And its diet can be, you know, marine mammals seals.

CC: So much bigger. They eat much bigger things.

SP: Much, much bigger things.

CC: Do they eat fish as well or.

SP: Oh, yeah. Yes. Okay. Here in the Gulf of Mexico, we suspect they’re eating large tunas and things like that.

CC: So you said not as much of a threat to swimmers but more diversions because they’re further out.

SP: Correct. In the Gulf of Mexico now, there’s places in the North Atlantic and things where they’ll move shallow. But here, these guys like really cool waters. So our warm kind of beaches aren’t ideal for.

CC: Them, especially this time of year when that’s hot. Okay, so just a fun fact about sharks in general. How big do sharks get?

SP: So the largest shark is 40 feet long. Now, the good news is that’s a whale shark and they’re eating plankton. Okay. So the great white is about the largest at about 20 feet. Predatory shark.

CC: Interesting. Interesting. All right. Thank you to Dr. Sean Powers for joining us for this Shark Week at WKRG News five.

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