Egypt’s Chamber of Diving and Watersports (CDWS) has today (1 December) been instructed by the Ministry of Tourism (MoT) that all diving and watersports activities are to be suspended in Sharm el Sheikh, with the exception of the Ras Mohammed National Park, following reports of three shark attacks.

Authorities informed the CDWS that three Russian tourists have been attacked in three separate incidents in the last 24 hours in an area north of Naama Bay. The victims, one male and two females, are currently being treated in hospital. One of the injured is reported to be in a critical condition. All were snorkelling at different times of the day on local reefs when the attacks happened. No names have been officially released.

The MoT has instructed all beaches to be closed to the public and all diving and watersports activities to be suspended until the end of the day tomorrow (2 December) across the whole of the Sharm el Sheikh coast, with the exception of the Ras Mohammed National Park.

Officials from the South Sinai National Park have tracked down the shark in question – confirmed to be an adult oceanic white tip shark. The South Sinai National Park, led by head marine biologist Mohammed Salem, is currently attempting to capture the shark with the aim of releasing it back into the wild in a remote area in the Gulf of Suez. The chosen location will be a safe distance from any tourist resorts in the Red Sea.

CDWS is working together with officials and shark experts to determine the causes behind such unusual behaviour, including possible indications of illegal fishing or feeding in the area.

Appealing for calm, CDWS chairman Hesham Gabr underlined the extreme rarity of such an incident, particularly in the Red Sea where around three million people each year enjoy water activities without incident.

Mr Gabr said: ‘We are monitoring the situation very closely and working together with all authorities to ensure the safety of all members and visitors in the Red Sea. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.
‘This is an extremely unusual incident. However, with such a frequency of attacks in the last 24 hours, measures have been taken by the MoT to close the sea to give teams working the sufficient time to track down and capture the shark safely.’

Richard Peirce, the chairman of the Shark Trust in the UK, confirmed that such behaviour is extremely unusual and said it was highly likely this may have been provoked by possible illegal fishing in the area.
Mr Pierce said: ‘The Shark Trust understands that the animal thought to be responsible for the attack in Sharm el Sheikh is an oceanic white tip shark. It is probable that the tragic attacks were triggered by a specific activity or event, and the Trust further understands that the Egyptian authorities are carrying out investigations. Attacks on humans by sharks are extremely rare and this species would normally not be found close to shore on bathing beaches. The Trust has been informed that a single animal is thought to be responsible for all three incidents and that attempts are being made to catch the shark.’

Figures from the International Shark File, which has a global database dating back to 1580, show that there have only been nine reports of attacks by oceanic white tip sharks on humans since records began. Of these attacks, five were registered as ‘unprovoked’, three ‘provoked’ and only one fatal.