Short summary of the events:
On November 30th, 2010, two snorkelers were attacked by a shark off a beach just north of Naama Bay, both suffering serious injuries. Photographs taken minutes before the 2nd attack show a fully grown oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus), that closely circled divers before approaching and eventually attacking a swimmer on the surface.
On December 1st, 2010, a third swimmer was attacked just a few kilometres north of the previous incidents; no photographic material is available from this event.
Reports of a fourth attack were later corrected, stating that the injuries to the hands of the swimmer involved were sustained by contact with corals rather than from the bites of a shark.
As a first response, the Ministry of Tourism suspended all water activities for the Sharm El Sheikh area, with the exception of Ras Mohamed National Park, until the evening of December 3rd, 2010.
Additionally, National Park Authorities attempted to capture the shark(s) believed to be involved in the attacks. As a result, two individual sharks were caught on December 2nd, one mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) and one oceanic whitetip shark.
Comparing the photographs of the oceanic whitetip shark responsible for the 2nd attack with the images of the captured oceanic whitetip shark, it is clear that they don’t show the same individual.
Hesham Gabr, the chairman of the CDWS (Chamber of Diving and Watersports), has condemned the random catching of sharks in the area. In agreement with HEPCA, both organisations would have preferred a more graded response to the unfortunate events. No attacks on divers have been reported from any of the dive sites in the Egyptian Red Sea, making the closure of all diving activities an unnecessary and extreme measure. While we fully appreciate the difficult and sensitive situation after such an unusual string of attacks for the tourism sector, the random catching and killing of large oceanic sharks in the area does not help to mitigate the problem; additionally it sends the wrong message that people entering the water are generally in danger of being attacked by sharks.
Such attacks are extremely rare and in the past have often been connected to illegal fishing and feeding activities.
We therefore welcome the efforts of the CDWS today, sending out volunteering dive professionals and registered CDWS members to monitor and observe the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites for any shark activity. These divers were encouraged to document any shark sightings by taking underwater images, so that we will be able to verify and potentially identify any oceanic whitetip sharks still present in the area.
According to an ongoing study of oceanic whitetip sharks in the Egyptian Red Sea, only 11 individuals resembling the size and proportion of the shark responsible for the 2nd attack have been documented throughout the last 6 years. All these sightings were from remote areas such as Daedalus, Brother Islands or the St. Johns plateau. 10 of these sharks were photographed by divers only on one occasion, and – to our knowledge – did not approach any humans or human activity afterwards.
These observations support the idea, that the string of attacks is the result of a single individual behaving in a highly atypical way.
Both HEPCA and CDWS call for calm in this unprecented and difficult situation, and appeal to tourists and professionals to follow well-known behavioural guidelines recommended in areas where sharks might be present.
· Do not fish, feed or bait any marine animal. Do not enter the water if any of these activities occur in the vicinity.
· Stay calm! Avoid any quick, jerky or erratic movements.
· If you want or need to leave the water for any reason, do so in a calm and orderly fashion.
For more detailed guidelines on diving with sharks in the Egyptian Red Sea, feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to latest information, all restrictions on diving and other water activities in the Sharm El Sheikh area have been lifted, and operations will be back to normal tomorrow morning (saturday, December 4th).
This posting is courtesy of HEPCA