Swimmer loses leg in rare shark attack in Egypt

A mako shark was said to be responsible in the rare shark attack in Egypt. Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
A mako shark was said to be responsible in the rare shark attack in Egypt. Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On the heels of the tragic news of two deaths from shark attacks in Western Australia in the past week comes a report about a rare shark attack in Egypt over the weekend that resulted in the swimmer losing his leg.

Egypt subsequently imposed a 15-day ban on fishing and offshore swimming near Ain Sokhna, a popular Red Sea tourist destination located 75 miles east of Cairo where the attack occurred, the Associated Press reported.

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A group of friends rented a motorboat to cruise in the Gulf of Suez on Saturday morning, according to the Daily News Egypt. They were nearly four miles offshore when Omar Abdel Qader, 23, jumped in for a swim. A mako shark attacked him, injuring his leg so severely it required amputation.

In a conflicting report, the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper reported that the swimmer was less than 200 yards offshore, according to Mada Masr.

Ain Sokhna, Egypt, from Google Maps.
Ain Sokhna, Egypt, from Google Maps.

“Mako sharks are very shy, and have always inhabited deep offshore waters, far from the shoreline,” Mahmoud Hanafy, a marine biologist at Suez Canal University, told Mada Masr. “Human is not on the menu for sharks.”

Hanafy suggested that overfishing and dumping food from boats can greatly increase the likelihood of a shark attack; scarcity of food for the sharks can too.

“There is a huge competition between sharks and humans for the fish stock,” Hanafy said. “With overfishing, it is expected that sharks will increase their feeding grounds and go to unusual places like inshore areas.”

In some instances, Hanafy added, some boat operators bend the rules against chumming to satisfy thrill-seeking tourists who are enamored with sharks.

The Associated Press reported that two officials investigating this attack said the swimmer jumped in after bait was thrown nearby, as the group combined swimming with fishing in the same spot.

According to the International Shark Attack File, Egypt has had only 18 shark attacks between 1828 to Feb. 17, 2016. But while shark sightings in this country are rare, the attacks involving sharks are memorable, as the Daily News Egypt reported.

In 2009, a French woman was killed in a shark attack at the resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. In 2010, a German tourist was killed by a shark, and three Russian tourists were injured in other attacks. In 2015, a 53-year-old German was swimming at a resort in Marsa Alam when he was killed in a shark attack.

“All of the attacks in the Red Sea in the last decade were carried out on swimmers and snorkelers, not divers,” Hanafy told Mada Masr. “The shark, when it sees something moving on the surface, bites it to see if it is food or not.”

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