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The Type of Sharks involved in the Red Sea Shark Attacks of 2010

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Sharks Attacks in the Red Sea are common and will continue until the nations surrounding the Red Sea put in place strict safety measures to protect tourists from unscrupulous diving boat companies.

The Red Sea is the world's northernmost tropical sea, and is home to over 1,000 invertebrate marine species, many of which are not to be found in any other part of the world. An ancient coral reef circles the perimeter of the Red Sea extending 1240 miles. This reef forms tables and lagoons along the shoreline. Natural beaches really do not exist and deep water is never far from land.

As a result, tourists flock there to dive or take up water sports in the warm waters where the sun beats down for most days of the year, rather than bathing where the sharp edges of the reef would soon cut their feet to bits.

This proximity of deep water means that sharks occasionally wander closer to shore than they normally would, resulting in occasional shark attacks where sharks mistake a human for food.


Tourism and shark diving are the main industries in the area and add to the $12 billion Egypt alone generates through tourism annually. The waters are crystal clear, warm and teeming with life. Every diver's dream, it is understandable that tourists flock to the area to dive.

However, the dangers of some of the 44 species of shark that live in the Red Sea are played down, with divers being encouraged to get close the sharks without the added safety of shark cages.

Among those sharks are the highly dangerous and unpredictable oceanic whitetip sharks, which were responsible for the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of U.S servicemen shot down or shipwrecked in warm Pacific waters during the 2nd World War.

A scavenger, the oceanic whitetip will eat anything. Used as it is to deep waters where food is scarce, it has learned to take whatever food is going, including humans. While other sharks like the infamous Great White are more particular, and usually realise their mistake after biting a human (they really don't like the taste of us), the whitetip just doesn't care.

shortfin mako shark

shortfin mako shark

In the first week of December 2010, 4 people from Eastern Europe were attacked while bathing in the shallow waters at Sharm el-Sheikh resort in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt.

The first two had their arms bitten off, while the second two, a pair of Russian women, were equally bady injured with the first woman losing a hand as well as having her leg and back badly mauled. She suffered a heart attack at the scene. The second woman lost her right arm and left leg. At the time of writing this all four are in a critical condition in hospital.

The Egyptian fishermen then went and caught and killed a short fin mako shark which is on the world's critically endangered list, and an endangered oceanic whitetip shark, showing them off the the worlds press as the culprits.

Two days later a 5th tourist, a German tourist, lost her life in yet another shark attack.

oceanic whitetip shark

oceanic whitetip shark

Obviously fearing for their industry with the risk of tourists staying away, the Egyptian officials have played down those incidents.

"It is unusual to have four attacks in a week,’ said Rolf Schmid, manager of the Sinai Divers’ Centre.

‘The area hasn’t had sharks for the past ten to 15 years."

Oh yeah?

Please then explain to me Mr Schmid how come you don't seem to be aware of a fatal shark attack on a tourist in Marsa Alam in Egypt on June the 2nd, 2009?

A 50 year old French woman was snorkel diving with about 20 other divers off the Le Nautile Liveaboard Safari boat when a shark bit her leg and she bled to death.

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Or the fatal attack against another French tourist on the 26th of January, 2010? Like the previous case, she was diving in Marsa Alam off the Egyptian coast when she was attacked by a shark and bled to death.

At that time, newspaper reports said

"The last person killed by a shark in Egypt was reportedly attacked while snorkeling near the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in 2004" (which again points to the lies told by Rolf Schmid who said they hadn't seen a shark attack for 10 - 15 years. I make it 6 years for Sharm el-Sheik and only 11 months after the previous fatal attack in the Red Sea off Egypt).

and State media is quoted as saying:

"It was the first fatal shark attack in the Arab country for five years".

Did they conveniently forget about the fatality on June 2nd of the previous year?

Director of Sinai Conservation Mohammed Salem is quoted as saying

"Egypt sees one to two fatal shark attacks a year and they increase as the number of tourists and swimmers in the water rises."

Finally, someone prepared to speak the truth.

The Red Sea

some of the better equipped shark diving boats in the Red Sea

some of the better equipped shark diving boats in the Red Sea

The Egyptian government has banned shark fishing its waters, and so instead all the former shark fishermen have converted their boats into diving boats, and there are reports that early morning off Naarma Bay you will find hundreds of boats of all shapes, sizes and conditions fighting for your custom to take you out to the deep waters to dive. Their equipment is old and unsafe and their boats even less so. None of these people who are desperate for your cash are going to warn you of the dangers of the sharks.

Indeed, many sites online talk about with the wonderful sights that await you underwater, including sharks, but fail to warn you of the dangers.

The Cause of Shark Attacks

Several different theories have been put forward as to the cause of the latest shark attacks in the Red Sea.

  • One focuses on ships that brought live cattle and sheep from Australia. Apparently a lot of the animals died on board - and were thrown overboard into the Red Sea where some of the carcasses later washed up on the beaches.

That would do it!

The hungry, eat-anything whitetips would have been there in a flash, feasting off an unexpected extra food source. It just takes one to learn the behaviour - go to the shallow water for food.

  • The other source being blamed is the habit (banned but largely ignored) of some shark dive operators of throwing chum overboard to attract sharks.

Chum is a mixtures of old fish, blood and guts that the sharks, with their super-developed sense of smell, could sniff out if within 5 miles and come to investigate.

Some experts believe this could change shark behaviour. They would become less fearful of humans and indeed begin to associate humans with food.

Studies in other parts of the world show this not to be the case.

  • The other reasons being suggested are over-fishing in the area leading to a loss of the shark's natural food source. This is indeed a strong probability. Sharks eat only when they are hungry, which explains why there are many occasions when you can safely dive with sharks. Put a shark there that has not had a decent meal for months, and it will eat you.

Most sharks do not eat humans - they don't like the taste. But humans have been known to eat humans given sufficient hunger and sharks are no different.

A hungry and pregnant shark may pose an even greater danger. Most sharks are viviparous (they carry their young inside them and give birth to live young) and their gestation period is up to a year. Their common birthing time is late Spring, so by December those pups will have grown and be hungry.

  • The most ludicrous reason for the shark attack put forward so far is that Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence Service, specially trained a killer shark and put it in the water just to destroy the Egyptian economy which leans heavily upon the tourist trade.

Guilty as charged?

oceanic whitetip shark with chunk missing from its dorsal fin which Egyptian authorities believe may be responsible for latest Red Sea attacks.

oceanic whitetip shark with chunk missing from its dorsal fin which Egyptian authorities believe may be responsible for latest Red Sea attacks.


IzzyM (author) from UK on May 25, 2014:

Well, we could. But we would have to live with the consequences and they would not be pretty.

Sharks are at the top of the oceanic food chain, take them away and we have an ecological disaster on our hands.

dar on May 24, 2014:

Excuse me, howcan you say we can compete with sharks in their field? o course we can. we could erradicate them in weeks if we wanted. we have a thing called technology. bomb the seas and kill the monsters.

IzzyM (author) from UK on December 21, 2010:

Onemore that is a very good point. I know the Egyptians had banned shark fishing which I thought was a good move because sharks are an endangered species, but you could well be right because the ban will allow their numbers to increase and possibly there isn't enough food for them in the Red Sea now....which makes things very dangerous for humans!

onemore on December 20, 2010:

aslo to be mentioned is the shark fishing ban since 2005 that has started to bring sharks back to North

IzzyM (author) from UK on December 09, 2010:

They reopened the waters the other day and my heart is in my mouth waiting for word on another attack. It wouldn't be me that's for sure, but I do understand the desire to snorkle in the shallow waters where the subterranean wildlife is beautiful.

Paula from The Midwest, USA on December 09, 2010:

Izzy, thanks for the informative hub about these shark attacks. I hope more warnings will be put into place, without the worry of possible less tourism. I know for me, I can enjoy the beach without going in the water. I would love to go to Egypt and surrounding areas, WITH a warning to avoid getting in the water. I am not sure it would inhibit tourism, as much as the cover up would anyway. Great hub Izzy! Love the pictures too!

IzzyM (author) from UK on December 08, 2010:

Absolutely Merlin! The shark is at the top of the oceanic food chain and that is the natural order of things. We may be top on terra firma but not in the sea. I like the idea of the Sharks Union making a stand against mankind - even if it seems to have been all or mostly women that got attacked - and you never hear of a woman being involved in the horrible trade of shark finning! If you want to avoid shark attacks - stay out of the water! Thanks for your useful comments :)

Merlin Fraser from Cotswold Hills on December 08, 2010:

Izzy at last you have wandered back to the true path of enlightened dialog and away from the 'Yellow Brick Road' of Sales Hubs.

Although I have to admit I'm on the side of the Sharks !

It's their home and anything in it is fair game.

The sea is their world not ours, we can't live in it, drink it or breath it and therefore have no legitamate claim to it and therefore should stay out of it.

If a mountaineer falls off a mountain do we rally round and say let's flatten the mountain ?

If a skier falls and breaks his stupid neck do we ban snow ?

So why hunt and kill something for doing what it does naturally ?

How do we know the sharks in question are not part of an underwater protest group who are fed up with Human over fishing and Sea pollution in their area ?

I Say "Go Shark !" and to dumb humans I say this you wanna pretend you're a fish then be prepared to get eaten by a bigger one !!!

IzzyM (author) from UK on December 08, 2010:

@Andy, thanks for commenting - I've loved doing this instead of a sales hub - P.S. anyone want to buy a shark?

@Humangaia - I just think it extremely unlikely that Israel would go to those lengths to destroy a neighbour's tourist industry. She is isolated enough where she is without adding fuel to the fire. Anyway, is it even possible to train a shark?

Charles Fox from United Kingdom on December 08, 2010:

What's wrong with the Mossad option - they have trained many killer humans to do similar - allegedly.

Ign Andy from Green Home Office on December 07, 2010:

I feel like watching animal planet program in written, I always enjoy it. Great hub Izzy!

IzzyM (author) from UK on December 07, 2010:

Thanks guys! I'm fascinated by sharks and so enjoy writing about them :)

India Arnold from Northern, California on December 07, 2010:

Sharks are such a mystery for the most part, but you provide a very clear and honest take on the beast. Shame on the Egyptian government for forgoing the safety of visiting tourist for the sake of a buck...sometimes mankind makes me sad.

I love to dive and deep water is a true gift for those who enjoy the sport. But, given your information and the crux of the shark attack activity, I am staying on dry land when it comes to Egyptian waters.

I am more likely to find the "cow overboard" scenario to be the culprit in the increased shallows attacks,...perfect point;

"The hungry, eat anything whitetips would have been there in a flash, feasting of an unexpected extra food source. It just takes one to learn the behavior - go to the shallow water for food."

Very useful and awesome hub Izzy!


IzzyM (author) from UK on December 07, 2010:

Thanks, guys, for commenting - it allowed me to go back and correct a few mistakes. Publish in a hurry - repent in leisure! Glad you enjoyed it - I have more articles in the making regarding sharks in the Red Sea. I hate the way the media presents a knee jerk reaction instead of the facts.

sid_candid on December 07, 2010:

Another Masterpiece Hub. Well Done Izzy.

Mark Ewbie from UK on December 07, 2010:

Seconded - great hub Izzy.

richtwf on December 07, 2010:

An excellent and informative hub which I enjoyed very much.

Thanks for sharing it.

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