A rare whale shark has been seen swimming in Egypt's Red Sea near the resort town Hurghada, according to several accounts from divers and the Egyptian National Institute for Oceanography & Fisheries (NIOF).
Earlier this week, the NIOF reported that a diving boat spotted a whale shark swimming near the "Small Brother" island in the Red Sea, heading to the south along with a manta ray fish and an oceanic white tip shark.
The whale shark, or "Bahloul" as it is called by local Egyptian fishermen, is the largest species of fish. It is a filter-feeder, eating plankton, and is harmless to humans.
Several whale sharks have been spotted in the Red Sea since July 2016. Sightings have occurred at Port Ghalleb, the Fanous area, and between the Geftoun islands, according to the management of Red Sea wildlife reserves.
"The whale shark's appearance in the Red Sea is an annual phenomenon, especially during the start of the spring season in the Red Sea and during the summer in the southern parts of the county," the NIOF said.
Hunting the whale shark is prohibited in Egypt, as the animal is considered an important part of the Red Sea ecosystem, which is home to several rare and endangered marine species.
The whale shark is the largest known extant fish species. The largest confirmed individual had a length of 12.65m (41.5 ft) and a weight of about 21.5 tonnes (47,000 lb), while its height commonly ranges between five to 10 metres.
The whale shark is listed as a threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Hassan El-Tayeb, the head of the Research and Environmental Protection Society, says that whale sharks have been migrating from the ocean to the Red Sea, which he says can serve as a tourist attraction.
El-Tayeb said that the appearance of the whale shark in the Red Sea affirms the success of Egypt's environmental efforts to preserve marine life and the country's commitment to international agreements on protecting migrant creatures.
The whale shark inhabits all tropical and warm-temperate seas. The fish is primarily pelagic, living in the open sea but not in the greater depths of the ocean, although it is known to occasionally dive to depths of as much as 1,800 metres (5,900 ft).
Last May, Egypt's environment ministry said in a statement that a rare blue whale, which is the world's largest animal, was sighted for the first time in the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea.