Shark caught after Russian killed in attack off Egypt's Red Sea coast

Authorities closes 60km of beaches for 48 hours after attack in Hurghada on Thursday

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The shark that killed a Russian man near the Red Sea town of Hurghada has been caught and is being examined by marine experts looking into the reason for the attack, Egypt's Environment Ministry said on Friday.

The ministry said a tiger shark was responsible for the attack on Thursday, saying it had been seen lurking near the surface in shallow waters beforehand.

Officials said the shark, whose capture and killing was criticised by some experts as unhelpful, was a female that may have been looking for a safe spot to give birth when it killed the 24-year-old Russian.

Authorities ordered all water activities to be suspended for 48 hours from Friday morning along a 60km stretch from the resort of El Gouna all the way south to Soma Bay.

A video clip shared widely online shows the shark after it was caught by fishermen, guided by local marine experts. One clip shows a man punching the shark on the deck of a boat.

The boat's owner, Ahmed Abbas, told a television interviewer that the shark was caught not far from the spot where the attack took place.

The Russian consul general in Hurghada said the victim was born in 1999 and was a resident of Egypt and not a tourist.

A disturbing video of the attack itself went viral on social media. It shows the shark circling the man before pulling him under the water. He surfaces before the shark takes him down again in a pool of blood.

A female voice is heard screaming “Oh, my God!” repeatedly in English as the attack unfolds. A man's voice is heard shouting for help.

Sharing the video of the Hurghada incident is harmful, malicious and damaging. It hurts livelihoods. Please stop
Naguib Sawiris, businessman

The final segment of the clip shows a small boat arriving at the site of the attack seconds after the victim disappears under the water.

“Sharing the video of the Hurghada incident is harmful, malicious and damaging. It hurts livelihoods. Please stop,” tweeted Naguib Sawiris, the richest man in Egypt, whose family has invested heavily in high-end Red Sea resorts that attract millions of tourists every year.

Egypt's Red Sea resorts are a vital part of its tourism industry, which accounts for close to 15 per cent of GDP while employing nearly two million people.

With the country on course for its best tourism season yet, pro-government talk-show hosts sought to play down the significance of the incident.

One host, Sharif Amer, said Egypt has had only 22 shark attacks on record in more than 100 years before Thursday's incident.

Spate of attacks

Mohammed Salem, a senior Environment Ministry official, said most of these happened in the past 15 years and that the prevention of shark attacks along the Red Sea coast has been among the ministry's top priorities.

In July last year two women, an Austrian and a Romanian, were killed in separate incidents south of Hurghada. In 2020, a Ukrainian boy lost an arm and a local tour guide a leg in shark attacks. A Czech tourist was killed by a shark off a Red Sea beach in 2018, three years after a German tourist died in an attack.

In 2010, a spate of shark attacks killed one European tourist and maimed several others in Sharm El Sheikh, on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, across the Red Sea from Hurghada.

Mr Salem said the Red Sea was home to 19 shark species, all of which are known to attack people.

He said the ministry had acquired 60 tracking devices that it would attach to sharks off popular resort locations so that experts could monitor their behaviour to determine what prompts them to attack.

Link to Eid sacrifices?

Sameh Mshaly, an experienced diver in the area, has provided new insight into the recurring shark attacks.

He said these attacks appear to take place every year at the same time in the Hijri calendar because of the presence of livestock boats in the area.

“The shark that attacked the tourist was frenzied, its diet and natural feeding patterns disrupted because of these livestock boats,” Mr Mshaly said in a Facebook post.

Essam Omaria, an official at the Environment Ministry, confirmed that shark behaviour changes significally when food and waste is dumped from ships. This is especially the case in the Red Sea region.

Mr Omaria said it is crucial to understand that the marine ecosystem, which includes predatory sharks, responds to such human-induced changes in a manner that can lead to an increase in incidents of aggression.

Updated: June 12, 2023, 8:57 AM