EGYPT In an extremely rare turn of events, four tourists were attacked by a shark while swimming in the Red Sea, causing one death. The ensuing panic has led researchers to hunt down the possible culprits. Of the two sharks already caught and killed, only one was responsible for any of the attacks. How can we justify killing sharks when the real culprits are the tour groups illegally feeding the sharks and training them to come in close to shore with the expectation of an easy meal?

According to the International Shark File, which has a global shark attack database, there have only been nine reports of attacks by oceanic whitetip sharks (the type blamed for several of the attacks this week) on humans since records began in 1580, and only one of them was fatal.

While only 10 people have been fatally attacked by sharks this year, approximately 100 million sharks are hunted down and killed by people every year. While  a shark attack might make a good campfire story, humans need to keep things in perspective. — Global Animal

Yahoo News,  Samer al-Atrush

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AFP) – Illegal feeding may have sparked a rampage by a killer shark that has terrorised holidaymakers in Egypt’s popular Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, a marine expert said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, George Burgess, who heads the International Shark Attack File, was in Sharm el-Sheikh to investigate the attacks along with a team of foreign experts.

“We think someone accustomed the sharks to being fed and whoever did it has stopped,” so the sharks started to look elsewhere for easy prey, Mohammed Salem, director of South Sinai Conservation, told AFP.

The timing and location of three attacks in a week off Sharm el-Sheikh pointed to shark feeding which is banned in Egypt, he said.

“This is the biggest possibility.”

Salem said the attacks occurred along a roughly eight-kilometre (five-mile) stretch of shore, including the busy Naama Bay, in the afternoons, suggesting the sharks had become used to being fed at around that time of day.

In the latest attack, a 70-year-old German woman was killed on Sunday when a shark ripped her apart as she was swimming in Naama Bay.

A shark expert who requested anonymity said “allegedly there are people, unresponsible operators, who have been feeding or trying to bait sharks with chicken.”

“It is really difficult to prove because there are no pictures or videos of them,” the expert said.

But General Ahmed al-Eledkawy, an aide to the South Sinai governor, dismissed the claim as “unreasonable.”

“Ask any skipper. They know it is dangerous. If the sharks’ behaviour is changed they might harm people,” the officer said when asked to comment about the possibility of sharks being lured by food.

Experts were trying seeking to learn what brought the sharks so close to the shore and if environmental change may have affected the feeding habits of the sharks.

“It is safe to say that the situation where you have a clump distribution in attacks, occurring after another in a limited geographical distribution, is very rare indeed,” Burgess told AFP.

These rare cases are “associated with an attractive event that brings sharks into the area,” he said, adding that the event could be man-made or environmental. “There is something that altered the balance>”

Beaches in Sharm el-Sheikh appeared desolate on Tuesday, with few people lounging on sunbeds amid a ban on swimming and snorkelling following Sunday’s deadly attack.

Professional divers only were allowed back into the pristine Red Sea waters which are rich with coral reefs, officials from South Sinai governorate said.

The women attacked on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday of last week were snorkellers or swimmers but not divers.

A few diehard holidaymakers nevertheless braved the warm waters of the Red Sea on Tuesday, wading in up to their knees.

In the distance the Egyptian coastguard was seen patrolling the sea on the lookout for any potential shark.

After the attacks on November 30 and December 1, government conservation experts said they captured two sharks — an oceanic whitetip and a mako.

On Tuesday General Eledkawy told journalists the mako was definitely responsible for mauling one of the tourists last week.

Bite marks on the woman attacked on December 1 and an analysis of the mako’s jaws all point to the shark’s responsibility, he said.

The oceanic whitetip appears not to have been involved in any of the attacks, the officer said, adding that at least one more shark is lurking in the deep blue waters.

READ: Why Are 100 Million Sharks Killed Each Year?