Friday, December 17, 2010

Egypt's Shark Frenzy: expert team issues findings

The furor that erupted in Egypt and amongst shark advocates over the recent spate of shark incidents in Sharm El-Shiekh, near the tip of the Sinai Peninsula, has begun to subside. The beaches and dive sites are, for the most part, all open and, most importantly, the events have fallen off the media spin cycle.

SharkDivers, which has been following this situation closely, forwarded to me a news release issued by the international team of experts that were brought in at the behest of the Egyptian government. Their conclusions touched on many of the suspicions that existed at the time of the last attack (see previous post). The majority of the factors cited in the news release centered around human activity - illegal human activity. And absolutely none of the suspected causes could be attributed to some malevolent behavior on the part of the sharks.

There have been reports that the Egyptian government will utilize steel nets to cordon off swimming areas. Hopefully that will be a temporary measure and that once the illegal activities have ceased, over time the sharks will resume movement patterns that may diminish the possibility of adverse shark-human encounters.

Global Shark Attack File


For additional information please contact:

Ralph S. Collier, Shark Research Committee/Global Shark Attack File

Marie Levine, Shark Research Institute

Sharm El-Sheikh Shark Attacks: Update

Between November 30 and December 5, 2010 there were 5 unprovoked shark attacks reported from Sharm El-Shiekh, Egypt. Following these attacks the Egyptian government assembled an international team of experts to conduct a forensic analysis of the attacks: Ralph S. Collier, President of the Shark Research Committee and Director of the Global Shark Attack File; Marie Levine, Executive Director, of the Shark Research Institute; Moustafa Fouda, MSEA; Mohammad Salem, EEAA; and Nassar Galal, CDWS. The team gathered eyewitness testimony, examined the attack locations, and reviewed the forensic evidence, including all environmental factors present prior to each of the attacks. The following is a list of those factors they believed to be contributor to the attacks:
  • The illegal dumping of sheep carcasses by animal transport vessels within 1.2 miles of the shore.
  • The unique underwater topography of the area; i.e., deep water very close to shore allowing pelagic sharks and humans to swim in close proximity.
  • Although fishing is restricted in the Sharm El-Sheikh region, unrestrained fishing in the Red Sea has depleted fish stocks and reduced the amount of natural prey available to sharks.
  • Shark and human population dynamics, i.e., 5 million people visit Sharm El-Sheikh annually and numbers of sharks migrate through the area each year.
  • Feeding of fish by glass bottom boats and swimmers drew the sharks close to the beach.
  • Elevated sea temperatures resulted in higher metabolic rates of the sharks and increased their energy (food) requirements.
  • Although prohibited, it is believed that some dive operators have been feeding the sharks, which could have habituated the sharks to humans as a source for food.
It was determined from forensic evidence and eyewitness testimony that two species of sharks were responsible for the attacks; shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus, and oceanic whitetip, Carcharhinus longimanus. Historical data obtained from the Global Shark Attack File for Egypt confirmed additional incidents from 2004 to the present (

Suggestions to reduce the potential for such future events were provided to officials for review and implementation.

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