Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Et Tu Shark! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

Whilst the entire world is preoccupied with the story of WikiLeaks, the secrets revealed in the leaked diplomatic cables and the repercussions these leaks are having on diplomatic relations across the world, the news of shark attacks began to hit the headlines following what seemed like guerilla warfare at the Sharm al-Sheikh resort in Egypt. This is after tourists who had come to escape the frost and cold of the northern hemisphere and bathe in the warm waters of the Red Sea were attacked by sharks.

Sharks became a controversial international issue overnight [as a result of this]. Countries started issuing warnings as criticisms were leveled at the Egyptian authorities for their hasty decision to re-open Sharm al-Sheikh’s beaches. Criticism was also directed at tourists who had made light of the shark attacks and the dangers of the open water. Environmental groups are fearful that a campaign to kill sharks – which are protected by international agreements – will be launched in light of the recent shark attacks.

In scenes reminiscent of the famous Hollywood blockbuster “Jaws” contradictory statements were issued about the capture and death of the shark or two sharks which were responsible for the initial attacks. However just a few days later a German tourist was attacked and killed in a shark attack which resulted in the Sharm al-Sheikh coastline being closed once more. An Egyptian official said that the shark responsible for this attack is still at large, and there is no specific information to explain this change in behavior which has led to sharks carrying out a series of attacks in this manner.

According to the latest reports, nothing is certain. Shark attacks are also something not unheard of, for every now and then we hear of shark attacks off the coast of the US and Australia. However the general impression [prior to these attacks] was that the sharks that lived in the waters around the Sharm al-Sheikh coastline were harmless and did not attack humans, however that is until the recent ferocious attacks proved otherwise.

In any case, if no more new attacks occur, it is most likely that they will be forgotten in a short while. It is unlikely that tourism in the region will be affected by such a sporadic occurrence, especially as western tourists know that there are dangers lurking in the sea and that many regions around the world are full of dangers. Tourists still travel to Indonesia and Thailand in their droves to enjoy the beautiful beaches there despite the monstrous tsunami that hit the region years ago. In other words, tourists understand that there are perils in nature that we must coexist with, for if we start fearing everything we will never take a step forward.

It would be good to benefit from the studies undertaken by marine experts, especially if they manage to discover why these ferocious shark attacks have suddenly taken place and what is behind this sudden change in behavior that has resulted in sharks approaching shallow waters close to the shoreline and attacking swimmers, especially if this change in behavior is a result of human conduct on the marine environment. For example, there is talk that chum [ground up fish or meat] being thrown into the sea to attract sharks [for tourists]. There has also been talk about fisherman over-fishing the waters in this region resulting in a lack of food for sharks that have therefore been forced to attack human beings despite sharks not having a taste for human flesh.

However what is most important now is that we learn our lessons [from this]. People tend to ignore or forget that human behavior towards our environment can result in uncalculated, and in many cases, destructive, results. There are many examples that reflect this, most notably global warming which has become an international priority. We have started to feel the effects of climate change, and these include floods and fears of entire regions finding themselves underwater due to the rising sea levels.