As an international team of shark experts land in Sharm el Shiekh to review a simply unprecedented series of shark attacks, resulting in one shark related death last week, some in the region are already blaming local dive operations for illegal shark feeding.
This is a dynamic map of the region, you can zoom in and move around the area for a better view:
What is not being discussed are the numerous eyewitness reports of dead farm animals floating in local waters prior to the attacks. The animals were first sighted in the Tiran Strait off Tiran Island (top right of image) with reports of a commercial vessel dumping dead animals at sea.
At least two eye witness reports say that dead sheep washed onshore during the preceding week not far from where the first attacks took place. What is absolutely sure, looking at the facts through a commercial shark diving lens, is that something caused a normally curious and manageable shark population to suddenly "turn on".
A floating train of large dead farm animals with sharks feasting on these remains in the days prior to encounters with swimmers, might be the trigger.
We decided to explore the "theory" that dead animals dumped at sea off Tiran Island could in fact end up close to shore off Sharm el Shiekh. We asked John Amos from Sky Truth to review satellite data from the region to see if wind and current could move dead animals, floating on the surface, in the right direction. The answer was yes, theoretically animals dumped in the Trian Strait might end up in the most populated regions off the coastline off Shark el Shiekh.
The first step in proving the dead farm animal theory is done. The next step would be to track back the offending vessel by reviewing cargo manifests of all vessels in the region during the preceding two weeks to see if any were:
1. In the Tiran Straits
2. Had a cargo of sheep and perhaps cows
The notion that commercial diving operations could radically alter sharks normal cautionary behaviour towards swimmers and divers with some basic chumming has been put forward by those with little to no experience with sharks. In short, this kind of shark behavior has never happened during past chumming efforts by local dive operations, so why would it now?
The animals who encountered surface swimmers in and around Sharm el Shiekh were in full predation mode, the unfortunate loss of an arm and leg to a 70 year old German swimmer is testament to animals that were recently accustomed to large volume surface feedings.
These were not frenzied animals as has been suggested by the main stream media, rather, these were conditioned animals.
We're leaning towards the theory that multiple sheep and perhaps a cow carcass, bloated by the sun, and floating in a current and wind driven southbound train, was followed and consumed by a number of Oceanic Whitetips (Carcharhinus longimanus), and Makos (Isurus oxyrinchus) which is absolutely normal for these species. This carcass train eventually found it's way closer to heavily populated areas off Sharm el Shiekh with the now conditioned sharks in tow. When these sharks, in full predation mode, encountered swimmers, normal cautionary behavior sets towards unknown objects in the water had been turned off.
An unprecedented series of attacks on swimmers and an ensuing media frenzy.
The facts about this case need to be known as it's impacts are already being felt worldwide. Our industry will have to remain vigilant against theories put forward by non-industry members who see sharks though a 1970's era lens of frenzied or rouge animals. .
Hopefully the shark attack specialists who are now in Sharm el Shiekh will find the answers.
Extensive coverage from RTSea Productions.
Update: Dead sheep story confirmed, September 26, 2010.