RED SEA SHARKS – FAQ
On this page I hope to answer some of the commonly asked questions about sharks as well as provide some links to the most interesting and relevant Youtube vidoes.
HOW DANGEROUS ARE THEY ?
Hundreds of thousands of tourists come to Marsa Alam every year, many of them diving or snorkelling in areas where sharks are common, but as far as I’m aware there have only ever been two fatal attacks.
The first of these occurred when a French woman was killed by a shark while diving at a remote site off the Marsa Alam coastline in the summer of 2009. However it seems possible that she might have aggravated the shark or offered it food which would have changed the animal’s behaviour.
Elsewhere off Egypt’s Red Sea coast attacks have also been rare. A man was killed whilst snorkelling off Sharm El Sheikh in 2004 and there was a brief but extremely unusual series of attacks on swimmers at the same resort late in 2010.
On 30 November 2010, a 48 year old woman had her foot and arm bitten by an oceanic white tip shark while snorkelling at Coral Bay. 15 minutes later, a 70 year old woman snorkelling nearby had her foot and right forearm severed. The next morning two men were attacked and badly injured off Ras Nasrani. And finally on 5 December 2010, a 70 year old woman was killed by an oceanic whitetip also while snorkelling in the Sharm El Sheikh area.
There was intensive media attention following the series of attacks. Some Egyptians even chose to blame them on an Israeli plot to destroy the country’s tourist industry – something for which there is absolutely no factual basis. More serious analysts speculated that a more likely cause could have been the dumping of dead sheep into the sea by cargo ships or shark feeding by divers.
RECENT ATTACKS AT SAHL HASHEESH
More recently, in late June and early July 2022, two women were killed in two shark attacks off the beach of Sahl Hasheesh, a few miles south of the Red Sea resort of Hurghada. The first victim was a Romanian woman in her 40s, but little is known about the circumstances of it, as her body showing clear signs of a shark attack was not found until two days later on a coral reef. Nobody witnessed what happened and initially nobody had known why she was missing
The second attack occurred on 1 July. The victim was an Austrian pensioner, aged 68, who died shortly after losing her arm and leg to a either a rare Mako shark (according to initial reports in Austrian newspapers) or an Oceanic Whitetip (according to later reports). Shocked bystanders on a hotel jetty apparently threw either a rope or a flotation device to help her and she seems to have been able to swim to the shore, but she was declared dead soon after arriving at the private Nile hospital in Hurghada. (see reports by the BBC, Dive Magazine, Divernet and National World and video commentary by Shark Tracker on this and other recent Red Sea incidents.)
THE STATISCAL RISK OF BEING A VICTIM REMAINS VERY LOW
Despite these extremely unusual incidents, as of July 2022, we are only aware of six fatalities off the Egyptian coast as a consequence of shark attacks during the last twelve years. If you are aware of others please let us know. Of the 368 species of shark worldwide only 20 represent any danger to humans. And statistically shark attacks are very rare. You are more likely to be killed by falling out of bed or by a toaster. Annually over one million people are killed in car accidents every year, but worldwide fatalities from shark attacks average just five a year. The risk of being struck by lightning is between ten and fifty times greater.
Annual risk of death for a US citizen during his lifetime
Even in the United States, which has recorded the highest number of attacks, the relative risk of death from a shark attack is extremely low. Source International Shark Attack File
|Cause of death||Death risk during lifetime|
|Heart disease||1 in 5|
|Stroke||1 in 24|
|Flu||1 in 63|
|Falling||1 in 218|
|Drowning||1 in 1,134|
|Heat exposure||1 in 13,729|
|Lightning||1 in 79,746|
|Train crash||1 in 156,169|
|Fireworks||1 in 340, 733|
|Shark attacks||1 in 3,748,067|
CONFIRMED UNPROVOKED ATTACKS 1580 – 2022
( Note how Egypt has a far lower total than the United States or Australia ) Source: International Shark Attack File
|Country||Number of attacks|
|Papau New Guinea||48|
OTHER RECENT SHARK ATTACKS OFF EGYPT’S COAST
Despite recent media reports that may suggest the contrary, Shark attacks remain extremely rare, especially for those swimming near the beach in day time. Attacks around offshore reefs are also very unusual, but marginally more likely. When reading about these incidents, please bear in mind that millions of tourists travel to Egypt every year, with at least half of them enjoying the beaches and a swim.
On 3 August 2018, a 41 year old Czech tourist was killed after a shark attacked him some 20 kilometres or 12 miles north of the town of Marsa Alam. City council chairman, General Atef Wagdy, said the man died “as a result of an attack by a shark” and explained that anyone swimming on the surface in deep waters, beyond the coral, was vulnerable to attack.
In October 2020, two tourists, a mother and her twelve year old son, as well as a tour guide were injured by a shark while they were diving in the Ras Mohammed National Park off Sharm El Sheikh. The boy lost an arm, the tour guide a leg and the mother relatively minor injuries after an oceanic whitetip attacked them. The area was closed to divers shortly afterwards.
On 2 December a German diver received two bite wounds to her left shoulder, which required stitching, while holidaying in the Marsa Alam region. Again an oceanic whitetip was responsible, and the attack occurred off Elphinstone Reef which lies some 12 km east of Marsa Abu Dabbab. It seems her relatively thick wet suit as well as immediate assistance given by her dive guide may have protected her from a more severe injury.
HOW CAN I MINIMIZE THE RISK OF ATTACK ?
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF SHARK SPECIES IN THE RED SEA ?
Well “common” is an exaggeration as many Red Sea shark populations are in decline and endangered but if you are lucky enough to see a shark, the relatively more numerous Red Sea species include oceanic whitetips, scalloped hammerheads, silky sharks, silvertip sharks, tiger sharks, whale sharks, whitetip reef sharks, zebra sharks and grey reef sharks.
From the table below you can see that even the most populous shark species in the Red Sea are considered to be at serious risk. A status of near threatened means the species is likely to become endangered in the near future. A status of vulnerable means a very high risk of endangerment in the near future while endangered means a species is at a high risk of extinction in the wild.
|Grey Reef||2.0 m||near threatened||near coral reefs|
|Oceanic Whitetip||3.5 m||vulnerable||deep water|
|Scalloped Hammerhead||3.5 m||endangered||deep water|
|Silky Shark||3.3 m||near threatened||deep water|
|Silvertip||3.0 m||near threatened||islands & reefs|
|Tiger Shark||5.5 m||near threatened||near coral reefs|
|Whale Shark||12.0m||vulnerable||reefs & deep water|
|Whitetip Reef||2.0 m||near threatened||crevices or caves|
|Zebra Shark||2.5 m||vulnerable||sandy areas near reefs.|
HOW FAST CAN A SHARK SWIM ?
The Mako shark is the quickest and can reach speeds of up to 45 mph (72 kph).
WHICH ARE THE MOST DANGEROUS SPECIES ?
Only ten species present any significant danger to humans and the most dangerous in the Red Sea are probably the mako, the tiger and the oceanic whitetip.
HOW LONG DO THEY LIVE ?
Most live to between twenty and thirty years though the giant whale sharks, which can be found off Marsa Alam, can live up to 100 years.
HOW INTELLIGENT ARE SHARKS ?
They have a similar brain to body mass as many mammals and birds and frequently exhibits signs of social, playful and highly inquisitive behaviour. Some species even appear to work as a team when hunting.
I WANT TO GO DIVING NEAR MARSA ALAM.
WHO SHOULD I CONTACT ?
Email email@example.com or contact him via WhatsApp on +201284332337. His company, which specializes in organising Red Sea as well as overland excursions, is rated #1 of 84 for boat and water tours by Tripadvisor (as of the time of writing – 5 July 2021.)