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 ridgeback 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 ridgeback shark species is the third 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.

Read the full interview:

Caroline Carithers: Well, let’s talk we here at WKRG News five, and I’m here with Dr. Sean Powers. He’s the director of the US’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 all things sharks and particularly sharks that are found in the Gulf of Mexico. So which shark are we talking about today?

CC: And we’re going.

Sean Powers: To talk about a group of sharks called the ridge backs.

CC: Okay, a group of sharks. And are they very common or not?

SP: These are going to be more offshore so these are sharks, like silky, dusky. Those sharks are not that common. They’ve been over harvested for years because of their fins. The desirability of their fins for the shark fin. So they’re going to be offshore. They are really slow to reproduce. They only reproduce every couple of years and they go on large coastal migration.

SP: So most of your viewers, the fishermen will see them when they’re fishing for tuna and things like that so far off shore. But they’ll make trimming this migrations in.

CC: Interesting. So how big do they get?

SP: So these will get about four or 500 pounds. 16 feet would be okay. Max for most of our in the ten foot range.

CC: Okay. And what do they eat normally?

SP: So they’ll eat fish for the most part, large fish like tunas and chase.

SP: Those big offshore fish.

SP: And that’s why they’re migrating. They’re chasing the large scores of pelagic fish.

CC: Okay. So you mentioned they were so far off shore, they’re not really a threat to swimmers, but divers that are diving.

SP: Potentially they may be a little deeper than a normal depth there for a diver. So they’re very, very cold fish, but they’re not much of a threat.

SP: Not much of a threat. Okay. So just generally about sharks, I hear that some people eat sharks.

SP: And so some do sharks are very popular. One of the reasons that they’re not very popular is because they excrete urine through their tissue and skin. So they have a very high ammonia flavor let’s say to it. So you have to really do a lot of work to prep the shark before you say some sharks. Makos and boneheads are absolutely delicious, but most aren’t very tasty.

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

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