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Shark Attacks in Egypt's Red Sea

Updated on October 27, 2011

Red Sea shark attacks

Just the mention of shark attacks tend to fill humans with fear. Tourists and residents must think they’re in the middle of a Jaws film in light of several recent Red Sea shark attacks in Egypt’s Red Sea. In this case, however, it wasn't great white sharks - the shark species most often associated with the horror movie - that were responsible for the shark attacks. On December 5, a 70-year-old German woman was attacked by a shark at Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular beach resort on the Sinai Peninsula. The woman yelled for help after having her arm severed and was rescued by a lifeguard. Unfortunately, the woman died from the savage mauling.

In the previous week, four other bathers suffered shark attacks, all at Sharm el-Sheikh. These included tourists from Ukraine and Russia. In one attack, the shark ripped off the victim’s leg, and in another, a hand was torn off. All four victims survived but were seriously injured.

During that same week, snorkelers in the Red Sea near Sharm el-Sheikh reported being confronted by an aggressive shark that circled them repeatedly. One witnessed identified the fish as a ten-foot-long oceanic whitetip. The group was able to reach the safety of a nearby reef before the shark could act.

In the days following these first shark attacks, two large sharks were caught near Sharm el-Sheikh and were believed to have been involved in the attacks. One was a mako shark, and the other was an oceanic whitetip. Autopsies were performed on both fish, but the results haven’t been made public.

The Red Sea

The Red Sea is a long, narrow tropical sea, an inlet of the Indian Ocean. It’s almost 1400 miles long, and at its widest point, it spans 221 miles. In all, the Red Sea covers 169,100 square miles. At its deepest point, it’s 7,254 feet deep, but it also contains coral reefs and shallow areas.

The Red Sea is bordered by Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti. Because of its clear warm water and its abundance of marine life, the Red Sea is a popular destination for divers and snorkelers.

Mako shark

There are two species of mako sharks – the short-fin mako and the long-fin mako. The short-fin mako is found in warm and temperate bodies of saltwater all over the globe, including the Red Sea.

The short-fin mako can reach lengths of over thirteen feet and weigh as much as 1700 pounds. These are very active sharks that can swim more than 1,000 miles in search of a mate. They’re incredibly fast, too. Scientists believe that the mako can make short bursts of speed at 60 m.p.h. As a result of this high metabolism, makos eat more than most other shark species. For example, a less active species might consume less than a percent of its body weight per day, while the average mako needs to eat 3%. They also digest food faster than other shark species.

Mako sharks feed on turtles, squid, octopuses, birds, porpoises, and a variety of fish, including other sharks. The short-fin mako has been responsible for shark attacks on both humans and on boats.

Oceanic whitetip shark

The oceanic whitetip is found around the world in warm seas and oceans, including the Red Sea. It prefers deep water far from shore and is rarely found in shallow water.

These sharks can attain lengths of thirteen feet. Whitetips are slim and streamlined, and the heaviest fish ever recorded weighed 370 pounds. Females usually grow a little larger than males.

Whitetip sharks aren’t particularly active, nor are they fast swimmers. They are, however, very aggressive and perfectly capable of shark attacks on humans. They feed on fish, squid, octopuses, crustaceans, stingrays, birds, turtles, and small whales. Whitetips are opportunistic feeders and often follow ships to consume any garbage dumped overboard.

Over the years, whitetips have flocked to sites where shipwrecks and plane crashes occurred, reaching excited feeding frenzies. As a result, this single species has been responsible for more human deaths than all other shark species combined. As a matter of fact, Jacques Cousteau stated that the oceanic whitetip is “the most dangerous of all sharks.” These are the sharks that reportedly killed many sailors from the U.S.S. Indianapolis.

What drew the sharks close to shore?

Both the short-fin mako and the oceanic whitetip are pelagic species that are rarely found near shore. If Egyptian officials are correct, however, one of these sharks was responsible for the recent attacks at Sharma el-Sheikh. Most believe it was an oceanic whitetip. What brought the monster close to shore?

There are several theories. One is that the natural food sources of the sharks are so depleted that the sharks are being forced to seek prey elsewhere. Another theory is that the shark or sharks were attracted to the shoreline by livestock that was thrown into the water. Ships carrying cargoes of cattle and sheep often throw dead animals overboard just before reaching port.

Others blame shady dive-boat operators and careless tourists. Sharma el-Sheikh is famous for its diving and snorkeling, and those wanting to see sharks up close may have been attracting the fish by offering them food. That's definitely not a good practice to follow. When predators lose their fear of humans, shark attacks could easily result.

Recent shark attacks in Egypt might have been done by an oceanic whitetip shark.
Recent shark attacks in Egypt might have been done by an oceanic whitetip shark.


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    • profile image

      Amy 6 years ago

      What do you do if a shark is about to attack?

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Ugh. I'm glad I didn't the photo, Glem!

    • Glemoh101 profile image

      Glemoh101 7 years ago

      Yes i see that picture of that lady ...the shark eat part of her hip.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Garnet, that kinda surprised me, too!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Bill, thanks for reading!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Nikoled, the oceanic whitetips are drawn to disasters for some reason.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Marc, from what I understand, the Egyptian govt. is saying all is well. I don't know if they've revealed the results of the shark autopsy yet or not.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Hinata. Glad you liked it!

    • GarnetBird profile image

      Gloria Siess 7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      I didn't realize there were Makos in the Red Sea/well done!

    • billrobinson profile image

      billrobinson 7 years ago from CA, USA

      I find this an interesting post. Thanks for sharing this! Keep posting.

    • profile image

      nikoled awesome 7 years ago

      i love sharks i just didn't know that the oceanic sharks would be so aggrsive

    • profile image

      MarcP 7 years ago

      My girlfriend and I have already planned a trip to Egypt. We were planning on going diving in Hurghada the 28th of December. I don't know anything about diving, should we change our plans? I am sure that the Egyptian government will say it's all good as will the diving companies even if they know it to be otherwise.

    • MiseryHinata profile image

      MiseryHinata 7 years ago

      I missed this on the news, so thank you for the information. Great job mixing in the different subjects, making it a very informative, interesting hub! ^-^

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      I heard that, Sheila. How would they train the sharks to attack??

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 7 years ago

      Actually, some Egyptian government officials are saying Israel planted those killer sharks in the sea to kill Egypt's tourist business.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Foreign press, that's why I don't really like to go out past knee deep! lol

      Jkim, we always watch for fins, too!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      It's an attack duckie, Silent reed!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, HH - glad you enjoyed it!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      OMG, Misty - that's scary!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      I'm with you, Nell - I don't wanna test that theory!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Great idea, Rob! Is Mel Brooks still alive??

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Prasetio!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Rich, I think it might make me change my mind!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Don't go in the water, Lynn!!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Pam, see above comment on how I like sharks! lol

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Drbj, I like sharks better when I'm doing the eating - when they're batter-fried and on the table!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      You're welcome, diva!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Bpop! Howya been?

    • miss_jkim profile image

      miss_jkim 7 years ago

      I'm surprised that the Israelis were not blamed for capturing and letting these sharks in the Red Sea. (Just a joke)

      But it is quite rare. Living near the gulf coast of America, we are always on the lookout for sharks when we go to the beach.

    • profile image

      foreignpress 7 years ago from Denver

      Fish belong in the sea. Humans belong on land. Sharks are doing what to them is instinctive. It's highly unlikely that a shark says, "Aha! A human! To the attack!" Nor are sharks racist for singling out humans over other food sources, as has been suggested elsewhere. I also think it's incredible that a shark is killed simply because it's profiled as a likely suspect. It's unfortunate that these swimmers suffered injury. But the sea is, and always will be, a wild and untamed habitat for the food chain.

    • SilentReed profile image

      SilentReed 7 years ago from Philippines

      Forget about going swimming or snorkeling. Now I'm even afraid of entering the rubber duck is giving me a funny look when I'm in the tub. :)))

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Very informative and I have learned a lot from it. Thank you

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      I was shocked when I first saw this story on Yahoo, not least of which because I was only swimming in the Red Sea on our family holiday in Taba in Egypt earlier this year, along with my Step Father, Mother and Sister. It never even occurred to me at the time that sharks might frequent these waters so close to shore, or that if they did they would attack humans. Scary thought, and I can only be grateful that we were the lucky ones.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      Hi, I saw this on the news, I remember reading somewhere that you can get rogue sharks, in other words a bit mentally challenged! lol mad in other words! but seriously, they go against their usual instincts and totally surprise everyone, I also heard that the white tip is dangerous to man more than any other shark apart from the great white, not sure if this is true, but i think I would definitely stay out of the water! cheers nell

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 7 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      This could be a movie. Moses opens the Red Sea and finds Jaws there.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Nice information, habee. I thought I have be careful if I want to dive in the sea. It looks terrible and scary. Good research. Thank you very much!


    • richtwf profile image

      richtwf 7 years ago

      I am sure this news will put off many a tourist thinking of visiting the Red Sea this year. An interesting read and cheers for sharing.

    • Autumn Lynn profile image

      Autumn Lynn 7 years ago from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

      I live in the Middle East and someone mentioned visiting Egypt on our upcoming winter holiday --no thanks after reading this!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Holle, I saw this on the news today also and I know it is very unusual. They probably won't ever know what caused the attacks but shark attacks are very scary to me.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      Well, Holle, there go my plans for snorkeling in the Red Sea next week. Or any other week. Or month. Or year.

      Interesting read. Nothing worse than a really hungry shark. Or even a half-hungry one.

    • profile image

      cookingdiva 7 years ago


      Great diverse subjects you have here! I missed this story somehow, so thanks for sharing it.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      I saw this in the news this morning. It is very unusual for this species to be so aggressive.


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