Brothers Islands Closed For Another Two Months
Egypt's Governing body for scuba diving, the Chamber of Diving and Water Sports (CDWS) has issued a bulletin stating that the Red Sea's Brothers Islands will remain closed to divers until 15 March 2019.
The decree, issued by the Red Sea Governor and dated 1 January 2019, is to 'extend the closure of Brothers' island for diving activities and safari trips until 15 March 2019, in order to complement the study of sharks' behaviour at Brothers' island to be able to understand the reasons of the area environmental changes.'
Big and Small Brother Islands, a popular offshore destination for Red Sea liveaboard itineraries, were closed for diving on 7 December 2018, after four biting incidents involving oceanic whitetip sharks. The sharks are commonly sighted at the Brothers, and one of the primary attractions for Red Sea divers. In the most serious incident, a diver suffered 'major tissue loss' to his calf muscle. The other three involved two minor lacerations, treated with first aid and stitches, and one in which a diver's BCD was damaged.
It has been theorised that diver behaviour and poor awareness of how to safely interact with a species of shark that is known to be unpredictable, may be partly responsible for the sharks' behaviour. Illegal fishing and shark feeding practices have been witnessed throughout the Red Sea's national parks, and the presence of the liveaboards themselves, which may discharge organic waste into the water around the dive sites, have also been suggested as possible reasons for the sudden increase in biting incidents.
The Brothers were initially closed to allow the sharks to return to their natural behaviour, with the 3 December announcement stating that observations would be carried out during the first weeks of 2019 to determine if liveaboards should return to the area. As a result of those observations, the islands remain off limits until 15 March. Penalties will be imposed for operators that fail to abide by the decree.
A copy of the decree (in Arabic) is available here