HEPCA recently put together a video focused on their shark protection campaign in response to the illegal killing of sharks in the Red Sea, following a spate of shark attacks in November, 2010. HEPCA managing director, Amr Ali, referred to the illegal shark killings as “criminal insanity” that has to be “stopped immediately.”
In addition to addressing the legal issues associated with shark fishing, the video also points out that the presence of sharks in the Red Sea is a tourist draw for a lot of diver who wish to see sharks, particularly Oceanic Whitetip sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus), in the wild. Elke Bojanowski, HEPCA shark specialist, points out that sharks over their entire life span can bring in “huge amounts of money” for the tourism market.
According to an article in The Telegraph, research performed by a team from the University of Western Australia and the University of Queensland has revealed that the 17 species of sharks (which included bull sharks and tiger sharks) involved in the study are effectively color blind. Examination of the retinas of the 17 species indicated that only one type of cone was present, which would allow the sharks to only be able to discern shades of light and dark. In comparison, humans have three types of cones which correspond to the ability to distinguish red, green, and blue.
Based on the research, The Telegraph article states that wearing light colored swimwear would reduce contrast with the water, implying that the reduced contrast might result in a decreased chance that a shark would attack. The article also claims that the study “backs up” shark attack statistics which indicate that a “vast majority of attacks happen to divers and surfers wearing black wetsuits.” Unfortunately, the article fails to mention that a vast majority of wetsuits are black, so the probability of a surfer or diver wearing a wetsuit that is black is going to be pretty high regardless of whether they are attacked by a shark or not.
The article goes on to discuss how this finding may be applied to surfing, swimming, and diving apparel. Nathan Hart, the lead author of the study, contends that “brightness contrast is more important for detecting and identifying objects” for the color blind sharks. Additionally, Hart is hopeful this research might be applied to the design of longline fishing hooks to make them less likely to attract sharks and reduce the mortality rates of sharks as a result of longlines.
Time magazine is reporting that the beaches of Sharm el-Sheikh are once again open to water activity under a new set of safety regulations.
According to Salem Saleh, the director of Sharm el-Sheikh’s Tourism Authority, swimmers will be limited to designated areas, and lifeguards and sea patrols will monitor the water. Additionally, authorities and hotel workers will receive training on rescuing shark attack victims. Salem also noted that existing laws banning fish feeding would also be strictly enforced, and that efforts would be made to stress the importance of abiding by the ban. The state will also strictly enforce dumping laws, in response to claims that sheep carcasses were dumped from a cargo ship into the Red Sea, which some theorized could have attracted the sharks responsible for the attacks.
The Time article also notes that the research team that was brought in to investigate the attacks has concluded its investigation on Sunday, prior to the announcement that the beaches would reopen. The team concluded that “habitual fish feeding” could have been one of the biggest possible factors behind the shark attacks.
The recent tragic shark attacks in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh have been surrounded by some strange reporting, bizarre theories, and a lot of wild speculation. The CNN report above adds yet another “theory” to the mix.
At 42 seconds into the video, Nina dos Santos asks, “is it possible we could see a ‘Jaws’ in Sharm el-Sheikh?” The question is posed to Oliver Crimmen, a curator at London’s Natural History Museum, whose response is, “it is possible in those waters. It’s a very wide ranging shark.” The question is asked while the two are seated with what appears to be the jaws of white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) between them.
Due to the fact that “Jaws” is a mainstay in pop-culture, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear a reporter ask if the situation in Sharm el-Sheikh could possibly be a “Jaws-like scenario,” in which a rogue shark has begun targeting humans. However, that doesn’t really seem to be the question that was asked. Rather, it seems as though dos Santos was questioning whether a white shark (the species of shark that was featured in “Jaws”) could be responsible for the attacks, when she asks about “a Jaws?”
Since the time this video was shot, evidence has identified that the two species involved in the attacks were the shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) and the oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus). While Crimmin’s assessment that a white shark is “a very wide ranging shark” isn’t off the mark (assuming again that “a Jaws” referred to a white shark), the Red Sea is not a generally accepted habitat region for white sharks.
The BBC is reporting that George Burgess, the director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, has confirmed that multiple species were involved in the attacks off of Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh. Burgess went on to say that attempts to hunt down the sharks involved in the attacks was pointless, due to the fact that the research team investigating the attacks have already ruled out the possibility of a “rogue shark.”
Burgess was also quoted as saying the attacks were “undoubtedly” the result of environmental factors, but that the investigation into these factors was still ongoing.
Despite Burgess’ assessment of the futility of hunting down the sharks involved, The Washington Post reports that Governor of South Sinai Mohammed Shousha is claiming that a shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) caught and killed last week was responsible for two of the attacks. Shousha went on to say, “the search for the oceanic whitetip continues.” An oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus) is believed to be the species involved in the other attacks, including the fatal attack on a German tourist.