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The Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula.

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An oceanic whitetip in the Red Sea – could extreme water temperatures explain their behaviour? Pic: Michael Aston

“Abnormal” shark behaviour in the Red Sea, Egypt

12 November 20

From the Strange Sea Tales file, November 2020: Ras Mohammed National Park and the Brothers Islands in the northern Red Sea have been closed indefinitely for recreational activities following rare shark attacks on snorkellers.

Egypt’s Environment Ministry and the Chamber of Diving & Water Sports are conducting an investigation following the incident at Ras Mohammed in which a 12-year-old boy lost a forearm and sustained bites to his back, his mother suffered deep bite wounds and their tour-guide lost a leg.

The mother and son, on holiday from Ukraine, had been staying in Sharm el Sheikh. They had gone out to Shark Reef with a mixed group of scuba divers and swimmers on a dive-boat, and while snorkelling in a group of six had been attacked by what was believed to be a 2m oceanic whitetip shark.

The snorkellers had attempted to swim away when the shark appeared but it had followed them before launching the attack.

An underwater video later appeared on social media showing a female oceanic whitetip said to be in the same area and acting in a hostile manner. The investigators have been tasked with determining whether this was the same shark and the reason for its “abnormal” behaviour.

The victims were treated at Sharm International Hospital, and Environment Minister Dr Yasmine Fouad ordered Ras Mohammed to be closed to access by land or sea as a precaution pending the results of the investigation.

Diver correspondent and shark-diving specialist Ekrem Parmaksiz had been diving further south in the Brother Islands – which he reports were also closed to divers.

“I had many interesting encounters with oceanic whitetip sharks at the Brothers and Daedalus and shot many frames of them showing noticeable behavioural changes,” he told Divernet. “I had never seen them so agitated before.

“Afterwards I talked to many experienced dive-guides, and the common perception is that extreme water temperatures could explain their behaviour.”

Ekrem Parmaksiz will have a full report on his unusual Red Sea trip in the January edition of DIVER magazine.



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