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Government’s response to shark attack is wrong, say experts

As the government scrambles to end shark attacks on tourists, experts call for the killing of sharks to stop and for snorkeling to be regulated instead.

Hossam el-Hamalawy, Saturday 4 Dec 2010
Sharm
A general view showing a partially empty beach at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010. An oceanic white tip shark badly mauled four Russian tourists swimming close to their beach hotels in two separate attacks at an Egyptian Red Sea resort, a local conservation official said. (AP Photo/Hussien Talal)
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As the government steps up its efforts in hunting sharks in the Red Sea, marine life experts and the diving community have lashed out against the measures taken.

Three foreign snorkelers were attacked on 30 November and 1 December, suffering serious injuries. The attacks were blamed on, first, one Oceanic White Tip shark, and then on another two. The ministries of environment and tourism responded by shutting down diving sites in Sharm El-Sheikh, except for Ras Muhammad, and launched a wide shark hunt.

The National Park Authorities announced triumphantly they captured and killed two sharks on 2 December. However, the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA) questioned whether the sharks responsible for the attacks had been found. "Two individual sharks were caught on 2 December, one Mako shark and one Oceanic White Tip shark,” according to a HEPCA statement. “Comparing the photographs of the Oceanic White Tip shark responsible for the second attack with the images of the captured Oceanic White Tip shark, it is clear that they don't show the same [shark].”

“The government has created an unjustified media scare,” said Dr Mahmoud Hanafy, a professor of marine biology at the Suez Canal University. “They adopted the wrong approach by shutting down the diving sites. It’s nonsense that they shut down a diving site like Ras Nosrani, and allow it in Ras Muhammad. A shark swims hundreds of kilometres a day. Today it can be in Ras Nosrani, tomorrow in Tiran, and after somewhere else. What’s the point of shutting down a site then?”

Frustrated, with his voice thundering over the phone, Dr Hanafy continued: “Every year there are recorded eight million dives. If you get two or three incidents out of them, that’s nothing. When you get a road accident, do you shut down traffic in the country?”

Shark attacks are rare in the Red Sea. The last recorded attack was in 2009, south of Hamata, involving a French tourist. The incident was investigated by local authorities. Diving centers in the area were accused of shark feeding. It’s not clear if any legal action was taken.

“The practice of shark feeding must stop in the Red Sea,” said Dr Hanafy. “It disrupts the marine ecology and associates man with food in the minds of the sharks.”

The Chamber of Diving and Watersports has also issued a statement demanding authorities stop killing sharks, calling instead for measures to be taken to regulate snorkeling.

Officials from the Ministry of Environment contacted by Ahram Online either were not available for comment or gave conflicting accounts. One source at the ministry said the first shark hunted was to be mummified and exhibited in a museum, while the second one was “to be released into its natural habitat.” It’s unclear how it would released, as both sharks were killed.

“Sharks do not attack divers,” explained a diving instructor who did not want to be named. “They only attack snorkelers, mistaking them for food in sites where shark feeding takes place. The snorkelers’ inexperienced and erratic behavior also agitates the sharks. If the government kills those sharks, our environment and business are ruined.”

“We don’t have many sharks in the Red Sea left,” said Dr Hanafy. “They are a national treasure that has to be protected, not slaughtered.”

 
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15



steve
09-01-2011 03:44pm
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shark attack
Shark attacks seems to occur more and more frequently all over the world. For unknown reasons, this problem will get worse. It is well known that dolphin chase sharks even killing them. They can charge the shark and use their nose to hit. So why not to use trained dolphins against sharks like the dogs which protect the herds against wolves . Moreover, It could be a plus for tourism.
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14



magda amin
06-12-2010 08:56pm
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Sharks
Amazing report
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13



Mark
05-12-2010 05:12pm
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Shark vs Man
Why would one go out and hunt and exterminate a shark that has killed someone that has entered its domain but when a man kills another, we frown upon the death sentence. Makes no sense to me -----
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12



danni
05-12-2010 02:01pm
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ANOTHER ONE
I am in Sharm now and there have been reports of another attack at the Hyatt/Cont Plaza/Garden Reef area beach.A lady has been killed. Hope its not true
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11



Randa
05-12-2010 01:21pm
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Dead Animals
TO me it is amazing after several reports and testimoney of dive guides, that hardly anything has been mentioned about the dead livestock dumped overboard by a transport ship, which has occurred several times in the past month. The hotel of the diving center where I work in Sharm el Sheikh found dead sheep on the washed up on the beach about 2 weeks ago, and dive guides reported seeing dead sheep in the water in the Strait of Tiran, which is near to the location of the attacks. Although the information about the dead livestock needs to be confirmed, it to me makes the most sense about the behavior of the sharks. Having dead livestock dumped in the water over the course of a 1 month period or more would be equivalent to feeding the sharks. The types of food that people sneak into the water, such as boiled eggs and bread is not attracting sharks, but dead livestock definitely would do the job.
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10



Sanyam Kaushik
05-12-2010 01:16pm
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egyptian police
HI, I had actually booked the snorkellking trip to Ras Muhammad on the same day when the attack happened. First, i was fooled by the travel agents, they took me to tiran island rather than ras muhammad. i spoke to tourist police on my return and they virtually did nothing but staged a drama in front of me when i asked for this policeman's name. On top of this, nobody told me about shark attack on that day untill i saw it on news in the evening on tv. remembering the sequence of events happened on boat, it looks evident now. police speed boat tried to stop our boat when the guides wanted to stop for snorkelling just outside sharm, when police went they stopped again at the same place to start snorkelling and then police came againt to shoo them away. beware, its a corrupt country with corrupt police who are always on their local's side. you never know what the locals are talking as they would always speak in egyptian language in front of your. its a beautiful place, i must admit, but
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9



matt andrew
05-12-2010 12:13pm
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oceanic whitetips
i can't believe the government are allowing, fishermen to hunt and kill these sharks! i mean what are the chances of them getting the correct one. it all amounts to jaws hysteria!! i have dived with oceanic white tips on several occasions, with as many as 10 sharks in the water,with no problems....we must remember that we are entering the sharks domain, and we must respect that!! the attacks are unfortunate, but when you look at how many people are in the red sea it makes the amount of attacks very smalla!! however i would find it very rare to find this species, coming inshore like this, as they are a pelagic species, i have seen liveaboards feeding theese sharks and that is wrong!! as the sharks will accociate food with man....open the beaches!!
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8



kelvin
05-12-2010 12:01pm
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shark attack
Returned from sharm on 3rd dec..Surely if several people are attacked then shutting the beaches is the right thing to do????IF feeding is causing this then maybe fines or stricter punishments should be put in place..My first ever time snorkeling and this only because the resort dive instructors assured me no sharks would come near the reef.I agree totaly with the closure of the beaches for the protection of the people on holiday,man woman and CHILDREN..A fantastic place to holiday..BUT ONE I WILL NOT BE GOING BACK TO..Many more attacks we will then see how popular Sharm stays.
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7



James Macdonald
05-12-2010 11:35am
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Shark
I was snorkeling in the red sea in october of this year with 3 other freinds, we hire a private speed boat with 3 guides on board. We snorkeled close to the russian ship wreck and then got on the boat to go and snorkel else where. we must have traveled about 1000 meters when suddenly there were dolphins jumping around all over the place, I took hundreds of images. Then we noticed a shark fin sticking out of the water and coming towards us, it swam right past our boat about a meter or 2 under the water. I managed to get some images. It must have been about 10 foot long. Would we go back into the water after that?? ummm.... NO.
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Amanda Barratt
05-12-2010 09:16am
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Humans Attack Sharks
I will NEVER travel to Egypt or the Red Sea now that I know that the government feels it has the authority to kill animals willy nilly. This is depraved. I would far rather swim in an ocean with sharks than humans.
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