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Rogue Shark in Sharm el-Sheikh

Posted by Rick Hartley 10 years ago
Oceanic Whitetip Shark (from the Telegraph article)

There have been five recent shark attacks on a three-mile section of beach in Sharm el-Sheikh Egypt leaving four people badly injured and one dead.

Adrian Blomfield of the Telegraph in the UK interviewed George Burgess, the curator of the International Shark Attack File about the attacks and wrote the best article I have seen to this point about them.

Mr. Burgess was able to determine, with the help of photographic evidence, that the same Oceanic Whitetip that attacked a Russian man on Nov 30 returned six days later to attack and kill Renate Sieffert, a German tourist.

The article goes on to point out that the only time in history that there has been solid evidence of multiple attacks by the same shark was in 1916 when a great white shark killed four people and injured a fifth off of the New Jersey coast. These attacks became the inspiration for Peter Benchley's Jaws.

So far, the theory that is gaining the most attention is that a ship carrying sheep in the Red Sea dumped carcasses into the water drawing the normally pelagic species closer to shore. After that source of food was gone, the sharks were unable to find tuna, their normal prey, probably because of overfishing.*

Blomfield separates himself from most other writers on the topic at the end of the article. He quotes Mr. Burgess as saying that Jaws set back the cause of shark conservation 20 years - but in reality they pose us little danger. In fact, sharks are the ones in real trouble, "With some species seeing their numbers fall by 99 per cent in 50 years, the king of the seas is facing a battle for its survival."

This is a tragic story with ties to the most famous shark movie of all time and the events that inspired it almost a century ago. Sadly, Blomfield is in the minority and the media attention that this story is getting will probably do a lot more harm than good. People will not be challenged to think about the very dire situation that sharks are in but rather focus on the simple primal story and recall the Jaws tagline: "You'll never go in the water again!".

* Well, that may be the most credible theory but the idea that is probably gaining the most attention, which Blomfield does not address, is that the attacks are the work of Israeli agents designed to disrupt the tourist industry in Egypt - complete with tales of GPS-implanted sharks. Surely this will progress to include "sharks with frickin' lasers".