CDWS update: 14 December 2010
1.Diving restrictions continue
2.Scientist recommend short-term and long-term measures to prevent shark attacks.
Restrictions on diving and watersports activities remain in Sharm el Sheikh, while safety assessments continue following the shark attacks.
CDWS would like to reassure its members that it is constantly monitoring the situation and hopes to gradually lift the restrictions in the near future. However, the organisation has underlined its priority in any decisions is the safety of visitors and its members.
The majority of areas in Sharm el Sheikh remain open to diving activities for CDWS members and their clients, however, there are the same restrictions on where these can take place and on client experience.
Qualified diving clients, who must have a minimum of 50 logged dives, are permitted to participate in scuba activities run by boat by CDWS members in the following areas:
- Area of Tiran
- All dive sites south of Naama Bay to Ras Mohammed National Park
- The entire area of Ras Mohammed National Park
Diving remains completely banned at this time in the area between Ras Nasrani to the north of Naama Bay jetty (also known local north area). No shore diving is permitted anywhere in the Sharm el Sheikh area.
Under NO circumstances are introductory or training dives permitted to take place in the sea anywhere in Sharm el Sheikh until CDWS members are notified otherwise. However, training and introductory diving activities are able to take place in other resorts, such as Dahab.
Snorkelling activities and other watersports remain heavily restricted - with the exception of glass bottom boat operations and semi-submarines - along the whole of the Sharm el Sheikh coastal area. According to the latest information received by the CDWS from the South Sinai Governorate office, snorkelling/swimming in the sea is only permitted in the following areas:
- in designated safe, natural sheltered bay areas within the Ras Mohammed National Park (Hidden Bay) and the Nabq National Park. The South Sinai National Park is responsible for monitoring the safety of these activities.
- The beach areas of Naama Bay and Sharm el Maya are open for swimming and snorkeling under strict South Sinai Governorate rules and regulations that must be adhered to by all hotels in these areas.
CDWS asks members to ensure divers remain vigilant in the water, particularly in areas where sharks are present (see recommended guidelines below).
Scientists working to determine the causes of the five shark attacks confirmed there were two species involved in the incidents: one oceanic whitetip shark and one mako shark. Factors that contributed - but are not limited to - the causes of behavioural change in sharks involved in attacks were also revealed at a press conference on Sunday 12 December in Sharm el Sheikh. The following was confirmed:
- A major factor in this incident was the illegal dumping of sheep carcasses one month before the incidents.
- Illegal activities of feeding marine life. Localised feeding of reef fish and/or sharks by swimmers, snorkellers and some divers
- Depletion of natural prey in the area caused by overfishing
- Unusually high water temperatures in Sharm el Sheikh
Following the publication of these findings, leading shark expert George Burgess offered the following recommendations to Egyptian government officials:
- Not to kill any sharks
- Take serious actions to fully investigate and take action against illegal dumping of animals or other waste products
- Practice of feeding of marine wildlife, particularly reef fish and sharks, should be immediately stopped. Violations of this ban should see sufficiently high fines.
- Need for education of personnel working on boats and beach hotel staff (suitable marine environmental and lifeguard training)
- Education of tourists and the public on environmental awareness, including the dangers of feeding marine life, through films on planes, tour operator and hotel briefings, as well as dive and snorkel operation briefings.
- Strict enforcement of illegal fishing laws to ensure natural prey for animals such as sharks is not depleted.
- Investment in further shark studies in the Red Sea.
In relation to suggestions by officials at the press conference that netting should be present around some beaches, George Burgess added the following clarification:
There are two types of nets used. Meshing or gill nets are designed to kill as many sharks as possible and are totally unacceptable. Exclusion nets designed to be a barrier between sharks and swimmers do not kill marine life. These exclusion nets are recommended only in areas with flat sandy bottoms, with low current and wave action. Use of these nets in any other area would be very damaging to the environment.
For all media enquiries and information on restrictions on beach and swimming activities, please contact the South Sinai Governorate directly. Official Egyptian government spokesman, Mr Ahmed Saleh, Deputy Governor for South Sinai. Tel. +20 10 164 0441
Shark diving guidelines:
CDWS chairman Hesham Gabr said: "It is widely known sharks behave very differently towards divers in the water. However, as an extra precaution, only experienced divers are permitted to take part in guided activities in Sharm el Sheikh at this time. The 50 logged dive limit is a benchmark judged in recognised scuba standards to ensure divers have good buoyancy and control underwater and behave in a calm and controlled manner."
The following recommendations were published in BLUE magazine Issue Seven and provided by Red Sea shark researcher Dr. Elke Bojanowski:
General Rules for Observing Sharks
- Elke insists that diving with oceanic whitetip sharks can be a completely safe as well as exciting experience, but explains that (like with any other predatory shark) certain behavioural rules should be followed to avoid potentially stressful or even dangerous situations:
- Only enter the water if you are comfortable with the situation, and confident that you can stay calm
- Do not enter the water if there is any sign of feeding activity around the boat
- Be aware that you are most vulnerable on the surface, so control you buoyancy at all times
- Avoid erratic movements
- If you want (or need) to leave the water, do so in a calm and orderly fashion
- Try to avoid surfacing straight above a shark swimming below you
- To avoid oceanic whitetips coming too close for your comfort, staying next or slowly retreating to the reef might help
- Do not try to touch or in any way harass a shark
- Do not be alarmed by a shark calmly circling you, just make sure to turn with it and keep it in sight
- Stay alert and look around you from time to time to see if another shark is approaching you from behind/underneath/above; otherwise one might sneak up to you
- Generally, sharks are more reluctant to closely approach groups of divers than single ones
- REMEMBER: you are in the water with a wild predator, whose behaviour will never be 100% predictable!
For CDWS member enquries only contact Mary Gleeson by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or Laura Coppa by email on email@example.com