Rash of Egyptian Shark Attacks

Oceanic white-tip shark in the Red Sea. Creative Commons photo by Peter Koelbl, via Wikipedia.

Three snorkelers have been injured, and a German woman killed, in shark attacks off the Egyptian resort town of Sharm-el-Sheikh over the last week. Meanwhile, the beaches are closed until the shark can be found, a team of behavioral experts has been called in to assess the situation, and two sharks were killed near the resort — an oceanic white-tipped shark and a mako.

According to CNN, the death was of a 70-year-old German woman who was a regular at the resort. Snorkeling near a reef, she was attacked by a shark, her arm and leg severed. She was rescued by a lifeguard, but died of blood loss. Two Russian women and a man from Ukraine were also attacked between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1. Sheep carcasses were seen floating in the water, but it’s unclear if they were connected to the incidents.

The three injured snorkelers — two Russian women and a man from the Ukraine — were attacked in a 24-hour period November 30 and December 1, the chamber said.

Two sharks were killed this past Friday near the resort, but local Red Sea Diving College general operations manager Jochen Van Lysebettens said “many have speculated an oceanic white-tipped shark was responsible.” As for the two sharks killed, said CNN:

Divers are upset because the two sharks killed Friday are thought to be innocent. They were a mako shark and another oceanic white-tipped shark — which did not match pictures taken by someone accompanying one of the injured snorkelers, he said.

“This incident has clearly shocked our community, and the CDWS is continuing its investigation into why this may have happened,” Hesham Gabr, head of the Chamber of Diving and Watersports, said in the statement. “It is clear from our initial discussions with shark behavioral experts that this highly unusual spate of attacks by an oceanic white tip shark was triggered by an activity, most probably illegal fishing or feeding in the area.”


The illegal fishing referred to is probably that including the practice of “chumming,” in which blood and fish parts is dumped into the water to attact sharks — you might have seen the practice depicted in a little thing called Jaws.

Sharm-el-Sheikh is a town of 35,000 on the Red Sea extreme southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. 41% of its land use is for tourist facilities, and another 8.4% for dedicated tourists resorts. Its 250 coral reefs and 1000 species of fish make snorkeling and scuba diving popular, including “scientific tourism,” according to Wikipedia.

There’s a Hyatt Regency, a Marriott, a Le Méridien, a Four Seasons, and even a Ritz-Carlton. There’s also a substantial Bedouin population.The 230-square-mile Nabq Managed Resource Protected Area features mangroves, reefs, fertile dunes, birds and wildlife. The nearby Ras Mohammad National Park features 2,600-foot reef walls, and other popular activities include windsurfing, kitesurfing, para-sailing, boating, and canoeing.

There’s also a state-of-the-art medical center to deal with diving-related illnesses, the Sharm el-Sheikh Hyperbaric Medical Center. In 2005, Sharm-el-Sheikh was the site of terrorist attacks by radical Islamist groups targeting Egypt’s tourist industry.

Virtually any shark can be dangerous to humans if provoked, and many species have been involved in attacks. But worldwide only four species of sharks worldwide have been involved in significant numbers of fatal, unprovoked attacks on humans. Of those four, the oceanic white-tip, the bull shark and the tiger shark are all among the 44 species of shark that can be found in the Red Sea. They’re also all reef-associated species.

Modern day statistics show the oceanic whitetip shark as being seldom involved in unprovoked attacks. Mako sharks are even less likely to attack humans, and in the case of the shortfin mako, a total of eight attacks have been reported since 1580. but again, virtually any shark can potentially be dangerous.


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3 comments on “Rash of Egyptian Shark Attacks
  1. What is up with sheep? Were these aquatic sheep? When I think typical shark prey, sheep don’t rank very high. I wonder if sheep carcasses were being used by someone to attract sharks to the area…Sharks with freakin’ laserbeams.

  2. Throw me a bone here. I suspect it was the mutated sea bass.

    I assume the sheep are one of two things — stowaways from a ship going through the Suez Canal — which seems likely, given that sheep in Yemen live constantly high on coffee beans. And bait for sharks thrown by fishers doing illegal shark fishing — similar to chum, but requiring less processing. Frankly, if I were a shark and I got a mouthful of woolly sheep, I would be PISSED. But then, I’d be a very finicky shark. Motorcycles? License plates? Dolls? Yuck.

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