Deadly shark attack less likely than death by coconut falling on head: Expert

Hana Afifi , Monday 6 Jun 2016

The Egyptian man who was attacked by a shark last Saturday is accused of violating beach rules; experts explain how rare such an incident is

Mako shark
Mako shark seen at the surface in the Red Sea by divers on a zodiac in August 2014, near Elphinstone coral reef in Marsa Allam, Egypt (Photo Courtesy of Red Sea Diving Safari's Facebook page)

An Egyptian man whose leg was amputated after he was attacked by a shark in Ain Sokhna in the Red Sea was accused by a tourism ministry official of violating beach rules and of possibly provoking the shark, with experts arguing such attacks are particularly rare.

Abdel-Fattah El-Assi, head of the tourism ministry's sector responsible for monitoring hotels and resorts, told Ahram Arabic on Sunday the young man was on a fishing trip with his friends 10 kilometers from the shore, which "violates the rules of shore control."

The environment ministry formed on Sunday a team of experts who are now surveying the site of the attack to determine why it occurred.

Practically speaking, the sea is open for everyone to fish or swim, experts agreed. 

Some beaches have barriers, but this does not stop swimmers from going beyond them or sea life from crossing them towards the shore.

Sharks are present everywhere, near the shore or in the deep sea, "with different kinds being present in different places and at different times," environmental expert Ahmed Al-Droubi told Ahram Online.

A rare incident

Requiem sharks, which pose a threat to humans due to their sizeare deep dwellers and aren't likely to get close to a beach, Selim Kafafy, a marine biologist, told Ahram Online. 
"The probability of death from a shark attack is less likely than someone dying from a coconut falling on their head," Al-Droubi said.

Scientists have agreed that sharks have two types of bites: a feeding bite, and a testing bite.


The latter type is what happened with the Ain Sokhna attack, Kafafy explained.

Humans changed sharks' behavior

Shark behavior has been changing over the past few years due to overfishing, Kafafy said.

Overfishing decreases the amount of fish in the deep sea, prompting wild life to approach the shore in search of food.

"Ships also tend to throw dead sheep in the sea, which attracts sharks," said the head of the Rescue and Environmental Protection Society Hassan El-Tayyeb.

He added that the presence of big sharks near the shore is a new phenomenon.

Can someone provoke sharks?

The injured man might have provoked the shark, prompting it to attack him, the tourism ministry official said.

However, El-Tayyeb disagreed with such an assessment.

"There is no such thing as provoking sharks. It is not in the sharks' nature to attack people. It's the sharks' territory and any swimmer can possibly be attacked," El-Tayyeb explained.

However, whether it counts as provoking or not, fish left over in the sea attracts sharks, especially at this time of the year, which is fishing season.

"Chumming by fishing boats attracts sharks who come after the smell," said Kafafy.

It is also common that tourist boats try to let tourists see sharks on their diving journey by throwing fish or food to attract sharks, which causes attacks, Al-Droubi said.

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