While it’s rare to find sharks in the Mediterranean Sea (they are almost extinct), they are not so uncommon in the Red Sea. Its warm waters and ample food source bait sharks who sometimes get personal with bathers and divers. In 2010, a Red Sea white tip shark ate an elderly tourist and just this weekend, a Red Sea shark visited an Eilat, Israel beach, getting within feet of swimmers. There was no mention in media reports if it was a gentle whale shark or a white tip, but in any case no damage was done.
While frightening, most sharks do not attack people. Usually it’s the other way around in Egypt, where diving conservationists are fighting to stop illegal shark hunting. Arab Spring uprisings may have been liberating for the people, in some sense, but these protests and the results have been a failure for sharks. While each shark in the wild fetches about $200,000 a year for the tourism industry (based on its value in creating ecosystem diversity), if sold on the black market for meat, it gets a a quick $150 to $200 bucks.
According to the UPI, Egypt authorities are going to start a probe on illegal shark hunting in Sinai. With all that authority is worth in Sinai in preventing kidnappings, and violence, we doubt to see any results soon.
The marine conservation group Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association in Sinai (one of its researchers is a Green Prophet hero for 2012!), Egypt is working to fight against shark hunters who advertise hunting expeditions for tourists, and who also sell their catch on tourist beaches for dinner.
“HEPCA and the Red Sea community are outraged at the disturbing news coming out of the Suez Governorate; the recurring slaughter of the gentle and endangered whale shark,” a release from the organization said.
It’s likely that the rare shark sighting in Israel at the top of the Red Sea where it meets Sinai, Israel and Jordan, was forced to come there to escape hunting pressures.
Arab Spring violence in Lebanon and Syria, and increased hunting, I was told by Nicole Wexler, an authority at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, has led to an unprecedented number of wolves seeking refuge in Israel from Syria and Lebanon. Most people don’t distinguish them from dogs, which is a good thing for humans with killer instincts.
Woman with whale shark from Shutterstock