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 tiger 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 been 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 all different sharks that we find in the Gulf of Mexico. So thanks for joining us today. Which shark are we talking about?
Sean Powers: So we’re going to talk about one of the more aggressive ones, the tiger shark.
CC: It looks kind of aggressive. Scary. Okay. So is it common here along the Gulf Coast?
SP: It is. Common and is becoming more and more common as the population rebuilds. But you can see to the stripes that give it its name. Yeah, the tiger shark.
CC: Okay. So how big does it get?
SP: That’s the big fish. About 14 feet. About 1200 pounds.
CC: That’s big.
SP: That is big. And they live a long time. They’ll live up to 50 years.
CC: Oh, wow. Okay. And so what does it eat? What’s its favorite meal?
SP: So again, it’s very aggressive. It’s kind of. Well, anything in its path. One of the things it eats a lot of is sea turtles and birds that. So it’s a surface feeder. It’s aggressive wind, and it’s a surface feeder oriented.
CC: Okay, so that does sound a little threatening to swimmers and scuba divers. Is that true?
SP: It is. So in the Gulf of Mexico, after both sharks, tiger sharks are the most common one for shark bites or fatalities, although again, in general, those events are rare, but it is the number two in that.
CC: So what other sharks bite just generally?
SP: So most of the bites, the non-fatal bites will be blacktip. Okay. So but if you look Boesch sharks, tiger sharks and great whites account for most of the fatalities.
CC: All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Powers, for WKRG News by Shark Week.