Egypt's Minister of Environment Khaled Fahmy has commented on recent sightings of whale sharks in the Red Sea, saying that the presence of such animals in the area is normal at this time of the year.
"The whale whark appeared at the same time last year, but this time citizens dealt with it in a friendly way and took photos with it," Fahmy said.
He said the whale shark – known to local fisherman as the "bahloul" – is listed as a threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The whale shark is the largest species of fish. It is a filter-feeder, eating plankton, and is harmless to humans.
Several whale sharks were spotted in the Red Sea in July last year. The sightings occured at three locations: at Port Ghalleb, in the Fanous area, and between the Geftoun islands, according to the management of Red Sea wildlife reserves.
Hunting the whale shark is prohibited in Egypt, with the animal seen as an important part of the Red Sea ecosystem, which is the habitat of several rare and endangered marine species.
Fahmy also commented on the large numbers of jellyfish that appeared along country's North Coast last month. He said the ministry dealt with the problem quickly in cooperation with other Medeterranean nations, relying on analysis of scientific data.
"The phenomenon is under control," Fahmy said, "and is low compared with known international rates."
He said that no beaches would be closing due to jellyfish infestations.
Last month, Egypt's Ministry of Environment said that it had formed a committee to investigate an unseasonable infestation of jellyfish along the North Coast, with the phenomenon spoiling the vacations of thousands of people celebrating the Eid holiday, according to a statement on the ministry's Facebook page.
Several people reported being stung by the jellyfish, while others were afraid to enter the water. Photos of the jellyfish washing up on the shores of the North Coast spread across social media.
The environment ministry said the jellyfish is a nomadic species called Rhopilema nomadica, which is indigenous to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, but which has been found in the Mediterranean since the 1970s.
This jellyfish is usually found on the coastlines of Egypt’s Arish, Port Said and Damietta, but has recently extended to the western North Coast area, a phenomenon that demands further research, the statement added.