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 hammerhead 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 hammerhead shark species is the fourth 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 joined by Dr. Sean Powers. He is the director of the U.S.A. School of Marine and Environmental Sciences he’s also a senior marine scientist at the Dolphin Island Sea Lab, and he’s here to talk about all things sharks. Now, the shark we’re talking about today, we’ve seen quite a few times already this year along the Alabama north west, Florida beaches, which is.

Sean Powers: The great hammerhead.

CC: The hammerhead. So how common is it? We’ve seen it a couple of times, but how common is it normally?

SP: So it is getting more and more common. Hammerhead populations were kind of overfished for a long time and now they’re recovering. They are also a species that will eat stingrays and they love to come up really shallow and chase stingrays like we’ve seen in video recently. Yeah.

CC: So they kind of thrash around trying to get that stingray. Interesting. So how big does it get?

SP: So the great hammerhead will get about 20 feet, about 1,000 pounds. So and they’ll have tremendous fins on them. To make them very agile. We have two species of Hammerhead, the great, which occurs kind of solo, and then the scallop hammerhead, which forms these very social school. So people who dove with hammerheads in the big school. Those are largely scalp hammerhead.

CC: Okay. So you mentioned they eat stingrays. Anything else or is that.

SP: They’re going to specialize on things on the bottom? They’re going to use that hammer to either pin their bait or just since things that are moving around on the sea.

CC: So those big fins, they’re thrashing around trying to get that stingray. Yeah. So do swimmers, divers, anybody in the water have to worry about these? Are they a threat?

SP: So hammerheads because that mouth is on the bottom of them. They’re really not implicated in many shark bites or shark attacks. It’s very, very rare for him.

CC: Bottom feeders.

SP: More bottom feeders.

CC: Okay. So what is your favorite fact about the hammerhead shark?

SP: So my favorite fact is actually the one that they eat stingrays because stingrays, if they don’t control the stingray population, then stingrays will eat blue crabs, oysters and other things that we value.

CC: All right. Well, thank you to Dr. Sean Powers for joining us for WKRG News five Shark Week.