Shark Experts Fly to Egypt Following Death of German Tourist in Red Sea

Egyptian authorities called in an international team of marine biologists after a shark killed a German tourist yesterday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El- Sheikh, the Tourism Ministry said.

The killing was the fourth shark attack in the resort within a week and the only fatality. Authorities closed beaches for a second time and banned tourists from swimming and snorkeling.

“We are concerned,” Tourism Ministry spokeswoman Omayma El-Husseini said by telephone in Cairo. “Any incident that threatens the safety of tourists is a cause for concern and the proof is that beaches have been closed.”

Eighty percent of tourists who visit Egypt spend time on the eastern coastline seeking sun, sand and diving, El-Husseini said. Tourism accounts for 13 percent of jobs in the country. In 2011, Egypt aims to attract more than 16 million tourists, generating more than $14 billion in revenue, Minister Zoheir Garranah said in an interview in October.

Egypt invited four international shark experts to “assess and advise on the best course of action” after the attacks, Egypt’s Chamber of Diving and Water Sports, a body set up by the Tourism Ministry, said in an e-mailed statement today.

Shark Experts

The biologists traveling to Egypt include George H. Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research and curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History; Marie Levine, head of the Shark Research Institute in Princeton, New Jersey; and Ralph Collier of the Shark Research Committee of Chatsworth, California, the diving chamber said. A fourth, Erich Ritter, a shark behavioral expert, is advising from his research centre in the U.S.

A Swedish research vessel is “surveying the topography of the ocean around Sharm El Sheikh in order to supply data to shark experts to assist their work,” the organization said.

The 70-year-old German woman was mauled by a shark while she was swimming yesterday north of Namaa Bay. The killing comes after a shark attacked and seriously injured two snorkelers on Nov. 30 off Sharm El-Sheikh. A third swimmer was attacked the following day.

The Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association, a non-governmental organization, said pictures of a oceanic whitetip shark and a mako shark that authorities killed after the first attacks did not match photographs of a larger whitetip taken by the snorkelers before they were attacked. “It is clear that they don’t show the same individual,” it said in a statement posted on its website Dec. 3, a day before authorities reopened beaches in the area.

‘Atypical’ Behaviour

A study of oceanic whitetips in the Egyptian part of the Red Sea showed that only 11 sharks approaching the size of the whitetip believed responsible for the attack on the snorkelers last week had been “documented” during the past six years, the environmental group said by e-mail. Whitetips are pelagic sharks that typically stay in deeper water, according to the Shark Research Institute.

“These observations support the idea that the string of attacks is the result of a single individual behaving in a highly atypical way,” it said.

Most areas in Sharm El Sheikh will be open for experienced divers with at least 50 logged dives, the diving chamber said in its statement.

The government doesn’t expect the ban on swimming and snorkeling to last more than three days, South Sinai Govenor Abdel-Fadeel Shousha said today in a live interview with the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alaa Shahine in Cairo at asalha@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net.

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