Expert shoots down conspiracy theory blaming Israel for shark attacks

Yasmine Fathi , Monday 6 Dec 2010

South Sinai governor backs theory that sharks involved in attacks off Sharm El-Sheik are controlled by Israel via GPS

Searching for sharks (Reuters)
Egyptian security boats search for sharks in the waters in which a German tourist fell victim to a shark attack in Sharm el-Sheikh December 6, 2010. A shark killed a German tourist who had been swimming near the shore at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday, days after a string of attacks injured several divers, Egypt health officials said. The body of the 70-year-old woman was washed onto the shore. Officials said she had lost her right thigh and right elbow. (Reuters: Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

A Sharm El Sheikh marine biologist slammed the conspiracy theory circulating around the country that last week's shark attacks off the South Sinai resort of Sharm El-Sheikh were part of an Israeli conspiracy, but the South Sinai governor supports it.

Mahmoud Hanafy, a professor of marine biology at the Suez Canal University, told Ahram Online that it is "sad," that Egyptian national TV helped propogate the theory that the shark attacks, which resulted in one death and four serious injuries this week, may have been controlled by Israel.

Speaking on the public TV program "Egypt Today" yesterday, a specialist introduced as "Captain Mustafa Ismail, a famous diver in Sharm El Sheikh," said that the sharks involved in the attack are ocean sharks and do not live in Egypt's waters.

When asked by the anchor how the shark entered Sharm El Sheikh waters, he burst out, "no, it's who let them in?"

Urged to elaborate, Ismail said that he recently got a call from an Israeli diver in Eilat telling him that they captured a small shark with a GPS planted in its back, implying that the sharks were monitored to attack in Egypt's waters only.  

"Why would these sharks travel 4000 km and not have any accidents until they entered Sinai waters?" asked Ismail.

Earlier today, General Abdel-Fadeel Shosha, the governor of South Sinai, backed Ismail's theory. In a phone call to the TV program, he said that it is possible that Israeli intelligence, Mossad, is behind the incidents and that they are doing it to undermine the Egyptian tourism industry. He added that Egypt needs time to investigate the theory.

Marine biologist Hanafy refuted the allegations, saying that the Oceanic White Tip, blamed for the attacks, does indeed exist in Egypt's waters. He also added that the existence of a GPS inside the shark does not mean there is a conspiracy at play, adding that these "tracking devices" are often used by marine biologists to study sea life.

"Here in Egypt we put these devices on turtles, in danger of becoming extinct, so that we can watch their behavior, see where they live, feed and lay their eggs," explains Hanafy.  "It sends signals to the satellite every time the creature appears on the surface of the ocean. It is sad that they made a person whose only knowledge of sharks comes from the movie Jaws go on national TV to propagate this mumbo-jumbo."

This morning, a team of Egyptian and foreign divers and photographers started surveying the popular diving spots of Sharm El-Sheikh, the Ras Mohamed Protectorate, and Tiran.

According to General Shosha, the surveillance will be conducted for 72 hours in diving areas and 24 hours in swimming and snorkeling areas.

Shosha added that shark experts from Australia and the US were expected to arrive soon. He also added that several beaches are temporarily closed and tourists are currently redirected to alternative beaches in the Ras Mohamed Protectorate, and for the first time the Nabq Protectorate has been opened to accommodate tourists.

Earlier today, Hisham Gabr of the Chamber of Diving and Water Sports said that Sharm El-Sheikh will be open for diving tomorrow, but only for divers with at least 50 logged dives.





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