x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Underwater forensics

Warm temperatures have been blamed. So has a flock of dead sheep. Even Mossad has been implicated in recent shark attacks, one of which was fatal, that have frightened tourists along the Egyptian coast of Sharm el Sheikh.

Warm temperatures have been blamed. So has a flock of dead sheep. Even Mossad has been implicated in recent shark attacks, one of which was fatal, that have frightened tourists along the Egyptian coast of Sharm el Sheikh.

While shark assassination plots are low on researchers' list of causes, the case continues to be a fascinating mystery that defies an easy explanation.

Rare is it that oceanic white tips - one of the sharks thought to be responsible for the attacks - swim near shore. Rarer still is that such sharks view humans as prey. But the female suspect in this spate of attacks has researchers worried because it has struck multiple times during the afternoon - implying that it may be used to being fed at that time and, in lieu of normal chum, has turned to humans.

Most likely, notes George Burgess, a top shark expert, is that unscrupulous "safari" operators have been feeding sharks in order to lure them to tourist boats. Another culprit may be a ship that illegally dumped sheep carcasses into the waters after Eid al Adha, an event that could "definitely tamper with the feeding habits of sharks and help change their behaviour", Dr Burgess told the Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm.

Whatever the cause, it has had an unfortunate effect on Sharm's tourism industry. A better understanding of how we affect the habitat could help to keep the sharks at bay.