Tourists and Guide Seriously Injured After Oceanic Whitetip Biting Incident

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Oceanic whitetip sharks are known for their close approaches to divers (Photo: Shutterstock)

Two Ukrainian tourists and their Egyptian guide have been seriously injured by an oceanic whitetip shark while snorkelling in Ras Mohammed National Park in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

The snorkellers, a Ukrainian mother and son, were part of a six-person group snorkelling with their Egyptian guide at Shark Reef on Sunday, 25 October. Early reports suggest that the shark had bitten the boy, causing the group to climb onto the surface of the reef, but returned to the group a second time as they were being pulled back to their boat.

According to reports, the young boy lost an arm as a result of his injuries, although it appears that his mother was less seriously injured. Reports suggesting that the snorkel guide also lost his leg have yet to be confirmed, a source based in Sharm has told DIVE that 'he is still able to walk but has a deep bite on his leg'.

One of the most popular scuba diving sites in the Egyptian Red Sea, Shark Reef, a large pinnacle usually dived together with the neighbouring Yolanda Reef, is technically off-limits to snorkellers, however, the prohibition is often ignored. All diving activities in Ras Mohammed have been suspended while an investigation is carried out.

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Oceanic whitetip sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus) are often accompanied by groups of pilot fish (Photo: Damir Zurub/Shutterstock)

A Statement from the Ministry of Environment issued on 26 October states that 'three people were attacked by a shark while exercising surface swimming exercises near the Shark [Reef] diving area of Ras Mohammed Reserve, resulting in injuries, which promptly required their transfer from the scene of the accident [to hospital] to take necessary medical measures.'

A video posted on Youtube and Facebook by Aggressor Adventures cruise director Adel M. El Beialy on Monday shows a large female oceanic whitetip shark, estimated to be around 2m in length and surrounded by a cloud of pilot fish, behaving aggressively as it swims at speed between divers and bites on the ladder of one of the liveaboard's ribs. Given the shark's behaviour, it is thought that this is the same animal responsible for the snorkellers' injuries.

Sunday's attack is the first to be reported in Sharm El Sheikh since 2010, when a large, female oceanic whitetip was responsible for causing severe injuries to three tourists, one of which resulted in the death of an elderly German woman. In early 2019, the Brothers Islands, a popular liveaboard destination, were closed for several months after three divers were injured by oceanic whitetips, prompting Egypt's Chamber of Diving and Watersports (CDWS) to require dive guides to undergo shark-awareness training.

Given the overall number of tourists to the Egyptian Red Sea, however, the occurrence of shark-biting incidents is extremely rare.

 

 

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