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Thursday, December 09, 2010
NATURE STRIKES BACK
Arrogant humans ignore reality, sharks attack, swimmers pay the price...
From The Guardian.
Sharm el-Sheikh: scientists give initial findings on shark attacks
Egyptian shark attacks blamed on overfishing, illegal waste and irresponsible tourists
A deadly combination of overfishing, illegal waste dumping and irresponsible tourist behaviour was responsible for triggering Egypt's recent shark attacks, according to the preliminary findings of scientists investigating the tourism disaster.
In the first official pronouncement on why the normally placid waters of Sharm el-Sheikh became host to a series of shark incidents over the past week that left one dead and four others severely injured, experts said the illegal dumping of animal carcasses by cargo boats in nearby waters may have caused a behavioural change in sharks, which rarely become aggressive towards humans.
The sudden presence of raw meat in the Red Sea came against a backdrop of long-term overfishing, which depletes the sharks' natural prey, and of unthinking swimmers and snorkellers trying to feed scraps to marine life – a practice that is prohibited as it encourages sharks to approach humans and view them as a source of food. Unusually high temperatures around southern Sinai may also have encouraged sharks to move into shallower waters, creating the ideal conditions for a tragic encounter with holidaymakers enjoying the sea.
"This should be a reminder that the ocean is the shark's natural habitat and that we are visitors there," said Hossam El-Hamalawy, a certified Red Sea rescue diver. "When we begin messing with the inhabitants' behavioural patterns, when we begin messing with their environment, then the consequences can be serious."
The investigation into the attacks, which have left the famous Sharm beaches emptied of tourists at the height of the holiday season, is being conducted by three international shark experts in co-operation with the Egyptian authorities. Scientists stressed today that research into what caused the incidents continues and that they are yet to reach any conclusions, although they are convinced that at least two species of shark – the mako and the oceanic whitetip – were involved.
In Egypt, there was doubt about whether the expert team's high-profile inquiries were achieving anything. "Why did they need to import all these specialists merely to come up with the same explanations that we all had from day one?" asked one dive centre owner, who preferred to remain anonymous.
"I'm surprised the government has just woken up and discovered this overnight – the problem of the tourism industry damaging the ecology of the Red Sea has been going on for three decades, and yet nothing has been done about it," added El-Hamalawy.
Egypt's ministry of tourism confirmed today that it would be offering $50,000 (£31,750) compensation to each of the Russian tourists injured in last week's attacks.