Within a short time, two deadly shark attacks occurred in the Egyptian holiday resort of Hurghada. Now there is speculation about how the horror scenario could have come about. Shark expert Simon Weigmann speaks to FOCUS Online about possible causes of the attack and explains why the animals attack people at all.
On Friday, a 68-year-old died after a shark attack in the tourist region of Hurghada in Egypt. While swimming, a shark approached the Austrian and bit her arm and leg. The woman then went into shock and died.
Only two days later, on Sunday, it was announced that there had been another fatal shark attack on a Romanian tourist – just a few meters away. It may have been the same animal. Since the incidents, the local governor has had all beaches in the region closed. Are more shark attacks threatening? Shark researcher Dr. Simon Weigmann from the Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change in Hamburg has the answers.
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FOCUS Online: Mr. Weigmann, why do sharks attack people at all?
Simon Weigmann : The classic hypothesis is that shark attacks on humans are just mistakes, but this has not been scientifically proven.
The hypothesis can be confirmed by the fact that the attacks are only test bites. This means that when sharks bite, they don’t continue to eat humans. Sharks usually let people go because they don’t like people at all. In the test bites mentioned, little tissue is usually severed, which means that they can be detected. Surfers in particular are often accidentally attacked because sharks can probably mistake the surfboard for seals.
So sharks have no intention of eating humans?
Simon Weigmann: You can definitely say that! Globally, the number of fatal shark attacks is very low. Shark attacks are also often compared by NGOs to how many people die from falling coconuts. In relation you can see how unlikely a shark attack is. Because if sharks wanted to hunt humans, they would specifically go to the beaches to look for their prey. Also, more often than not, people are more likely to die from shark attacks than from the bites.
In the most recent attacks near Hurghada, however, two swimmers who were in the immediate vicinity of the shore were killed. What could have been the reason for this?
Simon Weigmann: As with the current incident in Egypt, one can only speculate about the reasons. There were incidents a few years ago where animal carcasses were disposed of, thereby attracting sharks.
If it was a mako shark, it’s conceivable that it was caught and dragged towards shore and then released. Because mako sharks are definitely oceanic sharks. It is also conceivable that the shark simply got lost.
The two incidents in Egypt are of course tragic and really to be regretted, but you have to put the number of attacks in relation to other attacks. For example, people die as a result of bee attacks. Shark attacks on humans, on the other hand, are extremely rare.
Are there no warning systems or defense systems?
Simon Weigmann: But there are various methods that are also used across the board. Nets are most commonly used as a defense system against sharks. The nets are used to cordon off the beaches so that the beach is protected from sharks. The problem with this is that many animals such as dolphins, rays or turtles get caught in the nets and then die. This is of course a major disadvantage.
Electrovibration systems are also used to keep sharks away. Furthermore, sharks are also attracted with bait and then killed in a targeted manner. However, I think this is very problematic. In addition to the senseless killing, this method is the only way to bring the sharks close to the beach.
Can holidaymakers protect themselves from sharks?
Simon Weigmann No, as a holidaymaker, you can’t completely protect yourself from it unless you don’t go into the water at all. But the probability is so small that vacationers shouldn’t worry about it.
Even in the Mediterranean Sea there are great white sharks and I don’t remember sharks hurting people there. Sharks are actually not interested in interacting with humans.”
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