The Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh has been hit by five shark attacks in two weeks. Photo: Robert Hornung / Creative Commons.
A series of recent shark attacks -- one of them fatal -- on tourists at Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh resort have swimmers scared and authorities scrambling for an explanation. In what is surely the most bizarre theory, the governor of the region has suggested the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad might be involved. But people -- and their environmental negligence -- are behind what is emerging as the most likely actual cause.Researchers have already concluded that the attacks were not the work of a sole "rogue shark," and were in fact carried out by animals of two different species (including one that is not typically aggressive), leading them to believe that environmental factors played a role, marine biologist George Burgess told the BBC. "He said the dumping of animal carcasses in the area by a cargo ship last month might have contributed to the attacks by attracting the sharks nearer to shore," the British broadcaster reported.
Declining Fish Stocks Drive Sharks Closer to Shore
"If you start dumping carcasses, you couldn't ask for a better way of baiting for sharks,"
agreed Ian Fergusson, a shark biologist involved with the U.K. conservation group Shark Trust. He also suggested that declining fish stocks in the open ocean could be influencing the behavior of sharks that don't usually venture so close to shore:
While any degradation to the ecosystem of the local reef wouldn't necessarily affect the oceanic white tip [shark] because this is outside of its natural habitat, Mr Fergusson said this could "point to a larger issue of general offshore fishing of tuna and other big fish whittling down and influencing the food chain."
Serious Environmental Consequences
Investigators say the combination of overfishing and illegal dumping, along with unusually high temperatures and tourists acting irresponsibly by trying to feed scraps to marine life, likely contributed to the unprecedented attacks. The five shark attacks in less than two weeks come after 20 years with just 14 attacks, according to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm.
"This should be a reminder that the ocean is the shark's natural habitat and that we are visitors there," Hossam El-Hamalawy, a certified Red Sea rescue diver, told The Guardian. "When we begin messing with the inhabitants' behavioral patterns, when we begin messing with their environment, then the consequences can be serious."
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