Oceanic whitetip shark. (Picture: Michael Aston)
Another instance of unusual behaviour by oceanic whitetip sharks has occurred in the Red Sea – this time at Elphinstone Reef.
The incident, which occurred yesterday (2 December), was reported by Red Sea Diving Safari, which operates three eco-villages for divers on the southern Egyptian Red Sea coast.
A group of divers had been taken by speedboat from one of the villages, Marsa Shagra, out to the reef, which is well-known for its shark-diving. Encounters with sharks including oceanic whitetips (Carcharhinus longimanus) occur routinely there and usually in safety.
On this occasion, however, a female diver was “lightly bitten” at the back of her left arm by an oceanic whitetip. The dive-guide immediately went to her assistance, said RSDS, bringing her and her buddy the short distance to the surface where the boat was waiting.
The skipper helped the divers into the boat and started first-aid procedures while the guide brought the rest of the group back to the boat. He then helped the skipper to treat the injured diver, with assistance from a nearby liveaboard.
The guest was brought back to Marsa Shagra, about six miles away, where a car was waiting to take her to the on-site medical clinic. She was given 10-12 stitches for two wounds, and the authorities are now investigating what might have made the shark bite her.
“Encounters with sharks are almost always without incident,” says RSDS. “We must accept that as humans we are entering their territory and there are risks involved with encounters with wild animals. We can reduce those risks by behaving appropriately but accidents can still happen.”
Another incident involving a shark is reported to have occurred at the same location four days earlier, with a diver sustaining minor injuries.
A month ago DIVERNET reported that Ras Mohammed national park had been closed for recreational activities pending investigations, following an oceanic whitetip attack on a group of snorkellers. A 12-year-old boy and his mother from Ukraine had been badly injured and their guide had lost a leg.
In the January edition of DIVER magazine, which will be available to download free on DIVERNET from 17 December, shark photo-journalist Ekrem Parmaksiz reports on the abnormal longimanus behaviour he witnessed on a recent trip to the Brothers Islands.
He believes, along with many dive professionals he has questioned, that rises in Red Sea water temperature could be responsible.