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HEPCA newsletter 27/3

Egyptian Navy detains trawlers illegally fishing!

 

 

During the past week, Egyptian Navy vessels have detained three Egyptian fishing trawlers illegally fishing in the Red Sea. The vessels were carrying out trawling activities near or at coral reefs as well as at known diving sites.

HEPCA is greatly concerned that fishermen are using this time of unrest and lack of enforcement, in Egypt, to further their gains at the expense of the marine environment and thus the livelihood of local fishermen as well as the tourism industry.

Trawling is banned by law in the Egyptian Red Sea as it has disastrous effects upon coral reefs and the fish population in the Red Sea.

HEPCA is relieved that the Egyptian Navy has stepped up to enforce anti-trawling laws and greatly thanks the Egyptian Navy and all Navy personnel for their commitment and efforts.

HEPCA calls on all policy setters and decision makers in all authorities and institutions to put in place an effective mechanism which would implement the Sharm El Sheikh recommendations of 2009 as well as the tenets of the Hurghada Declaration of 2010. Both agreements regulate fishing activities in the Red Sea and were agreed upon by all the relevant governmental bodies and agencies; the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Environmental Affairs as well as the Governorates of the Red Sea, Suez

and South Sinai.

 

 


 

Sharm El Sheikh in the wake of the shark attacks

After the first series of attacks, Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and CDWS (Egyptian Chamber of Diving and Water Sports) closed most of the South Sinai coastline for diving and snorkelling. When the beaches a few days later again opened, and there was another attack, this time lethal, there was a confusing time of many kooks and not much broth made. The sea was closed again. Some areas were then opened to divers with certain experience and some remained closed for all activities. Dive Schools had to travel far to conduct course dives and the pools in the hotels were remarkably over populated. It’s easy to criticise authorities in situations like this but if we’re honest, what exactly do we expect them to do?

Following the 5 shark attacks in the waters surrounding the South Sinai holiday resort of Sharm El Sheikh between November 30 and December 5 this year, the Egyptian government gathered an international team of experts to analyse of the attacks. The team members were Ralph S. Collier, President of the Shark Research Committee and Director of the Global Shark Attack File, Marie Levine, Executive Director of Shark Research Institute, Moustafa Fouda of the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs and Mohammad Salem Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, and Nassar Galal, Chamber of Diving and Water Sports. From scientific evidence and eyewitness testimony the conclusion was made that two species of sharks were responsible for the attacks, shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus, and oceanic whitetip, Carcharhinus longimanus. According to the Global Shark Attack File for Egypt only one attack by mako shark (Sharm El Sheikh 2004) and one by oceanic whitetip (St. John’s Reef 2009) has occurred in the documented Red Sea history. Though suggestions have been ventilated to minimise the possibility for interactions between this kinds of shark and human in the future, there is little or no chance to actually implement and police such actions.

According to the report from the team the following factors are believed to have contributed to the attacks:

The illegal dumping of sheep carcasses by animal transport vessels within 1.2 miles of the shore.
The unique underwater topography of the area; i.e., deep water very close to shore allowing pelagic sharks and humans to swim in close proximity.
Although fishing is restricted in the Sharm El-Sheikh region, uncontrolled fishing in the Red Sea has depleted fish stocks and reduced the amount of natural prey available to sharks.
Shark and human population dynamics,5 million people visit Sharm El-Sheikh annually and numbers of sharks migrate through the area each year.
Feeding of fish by glass bottom boats and swimmers drew the sharks close to the beach.
Elevated sea temperatures resulted in higher metabolic rates of the sharks and increased their energy (food) requirements.
Although prohibited, it is believed that some dive operators have been feeding the sharks, which could have habituated the sharks to humans as a source for food.
 

Crowley, who is a Sharm El Sheikh resident and contributing writer for The EQUALIZER reflects on the events from a dive professional’s point of view.

“It’s been an interesting few weeks. The restrictions on training or intro dives and snorkelling have meant a downturn in business for a lot of operators, and media hype and misinformation have not helped - some people have literally cancelled their diving experiences because they were afraid to get into the water. Others were understandably unwilling to pay extra in order to relocate to Dahab every day.

For the staff it’s been uncertain. You can’t work if you can’t get in the water and most dive professionals in Sharm are paid in commission so for sure the shark attacks have impacted our income this month. Having said that, the impending collapse of the Eurozone and frozen airports have not been of assistance.

Talk of sharks has of course been the buzz of the town with everybody turning into armchair Sharm-el-sheikh shark experts overnight. Our dive briefings included some extra pointers on how to deal with a shark in close proximity, and I think many guides – including myself – would admit to a few nerves at certain dive sites, particularly since the female thought to be responsible for some of the attacks (including the fatality) has been seen at Shark and Yolanda quite regularly.

The “likely causes” for the attack were already the centre of discussion around the beer table long before any real scientists arrived. This is not meant as a slight to the experts – but it would seem there is a wealth of information here that nobody ever used. With a few notable exceptions such as Dr. Bojanowski, there is very little research into shark populations in the region and yet for thirty years this has been one of the most popular dive destinations on the planet. We write shark encounters on the “Daily Sightings” board every few days in summer – and most of that doesn’t get any further.

I don’t think the dive industry will suffer long term, but the last few weeks have made some people think (and a few unemployed!), and a tragic event might have a long term positive outcome if more research and education into sharks in the Red Sea is properly implemented.

We are all very hopeful that the situation will improve for the tourists, for the staff here – and indeed for the shark population. Until then – it’s still beautiful here!”


Dr. Elke Bojanowski biologist, the initiator of the Red Sea longimanus-project, says in the HEPCA newsletter from 8 December. “The severity of the attacks and the amount of human tissue taken (and potentially swallowed) indicates a clear deviation of the normal behaviour of an oceanic whitetip shark. Instead of briefly grabbing for testing or tasting purposes, this female apparently considers human swimmers as a potential food source”.

For sure the last chapter of this tragic series of events has not been written and there have been rumours of sharks being caught and killed. The question is if this has been as retribution or as preventive measure or if there has been a reason at all.

According to Ahram Online the South Sinai Governor’s secretary, General Ahmad Saleh, said in an interview that there are watchtowers with professional lifeguards checking movements by sharks in the water. In addition Zodiacs are patrolling the area looking for signs of danger. Furthermore the authorities are searching for the best places to install protective nets.

One question is what the lifeguards in the towers are looking for exactly? It’s hard enough to spot a shark while diving so how can it help to look out from the beach? Another question is what good the nets will do and how they have to be designed to fit the underwater topography of the Red Sea. Historically those kinds of nets have caught more sharks going out to sea than coming into the beaches plus managed to kill turtles and other marine life.

All diving restrictions put in place following the shark incidents in Sharm el Sheikh were lifted 22 December 2010. The EQUALIZER extend our sympathy to the victims and their families.

 

Read More in the online magazine The EQUALIZER.

 


 

Tigershark in Hurghada

 

In the afternoon of October 19th Instructor Joachim Hägg on the daily dive boat Capt. Maged III from Colona Divers spotted a Tiger shark at El Twile a.k.a. El Aroug.  

 

First a group of about 10 to 15 dolphins with a baby dolphin was spotted and not far from them, a Tigershark appeared, trailing the dolphins. The shark, estimated to be about 2,5 to 3 meters in size, was seen for about 30 to 45 seconds from the fly-bridge swimming at a depth of around 2 to 3 meters below the surface around the boat. The weather conditions was perfect, no wind and no waves, therefore the identification was easily made.  

 


 

Shark Encounter on Carless Reef.

 

September 22nd 2010

Yesterday, the 21st Andy Titze had a nice experience while on the boat Al Dau II from ILIOS DIVING CLUB from the Steigenberger Hotel. Andy met a silvertip reef shark on a morning dive at Carless Reef Just North of Hurghada. It was a fairly big animal measuring around 1,70m long. The encounter lasted for about 2 minutes and both Andy and his group of 2 divers was of course excited about it. 


 

 

 

Contact details for the Planned

Dolphin Park Makadi Bay.

 

In case any one wants to call and talk to them.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dolphin Park to open in Makadi Bay?

 

September 17th 2010

There is going to be a war in Hurghada and the combating sides will be us and them. Us who do not think it’s a good idea to start a dolphin park with captive dolphins jumping through hoops and them who want to start one. This has happened before with a company building a floating dolhinarium that was moored outside Sindbad Marina. Back then the local protests together with HEPCA managed to stop the project and the floating construction was tuned into a showground for synchronised swimming. This time it’s Makadi Bay that is supposed to have the disputable honour of having this project disagreed upon by the masses. The dolphin park in Makadi Bay is due to open in November according to the information given to Kiki at Sea Wolf diving centre in Moon Valley hotel. She found a booklet where the back page was advertising the dolphin show already.

The operation was exposed as a few friends were walking down the street in a villa area in Hurghada. “There was a huge canvas blocking the view from the street but the wind took it and made a gap big enough for us to see the inhabitants in the small pool and we could not believe our eyes!” Says one of the people finding the captured dolphins and continues “The pool is not more than 5x5 metres and the water is really mucky”. HEPCA has been alerted to the situation and has begun to take action and what we need now is for every single person against the project to stand up and protest.

 

Make your voice heard and protest will all your power!

 

 


 

Grey Reef shark In Hurghada

 

August 26th 2010
Magnus is reporting an exciting shark encounter from yesterday. On the small reef Eshta in the Magawish area as group of divers met a grey reef shark during a night dive. Magnus who is a Dive Instructor working for Colona Divers in Magawish Resort in Hurghada and on top of this he also reports that he just came out from a dive where he was playing with dolphins for 40 minutes.

 

Whale shark In Hurghada

 

August 24th 2010

As if that was not enough the Colona divers dived with a whale shark on the reef Sabina Garden in the Giftun Marine Park area on the 24th while on excursion on the dive boat Francesca. The whale shark was about 12 metres long and had more than half a dozen remoras attached to it.

 

There is definitely something going on this year because the amount of shark encounter in the Hurghada area has been unusually high. A pleasant mystery to try to solve.

 


Thresher shark and Zebra shark In Hurghada

 

August 23rd 2010
Cat Parfitt from Tekstreme in Hurghada has spent the weekend in some rather interesting company. At Halg Disha in the south part of Hurghada she met a Zebra shark at the depth of 40 metres right beneath the boat. On the a dive site in the nprth part of Hurghada, Shabrouhr Um Gammar she encountered the elusive Thresher shark over the well known wreck patrol boat!!

 


Emperor Spots More Whale Sharks

In Hurghada

 

August 3rd 2010
Something is going on in the Red Sea at the moment, something really exciting. Whale sharks are spotted here and there which is normal for the summer but lately there have been reports coming in that are extra exciting.

Just a few minutes ago my phone rang and it was James Dawson who just had seen a juvenile Whale shark measuring around 2.5 meters in length. What’s interesting with this sighting is that it was half way between the dive site called Fanous at the north end of Big Giftun Marine Park area and the Ferry Port for the Sharm El Sheikh Ferry.

It was James who initially spotted the shark and signalled the captain of Sea Dream, the daily boat from Emperor Divers, to turn around. The captain was happy to do so and after a few minutes searching they could again see the classic dorsal fin breaking the surface.

 

 

 

 

Two Whale Sharks Both Dives

 

Reports have been coming in from different people that for a few days now there have been several whale shark spottings in Marsa Alam area and on Wednesday there were a few lucky divers who saw not only one but two whale sharks around Elphinstone Reef on not only one but two dives! Congratulations to you lot (you should have gone to Las Vegas!!!)

 

 

 


 

Ramadan And Daylight Saving Time

 

Egypt is using the system of Daylight Saving Time, or summer time as it’s more popularly called. By law this is between the last Friday of April to the last Thursday of September. It is also stipulated by law that the Holy Month of Ramadan is to be excluded from the summer time. This means that when The Holy Month of Ramadan occurs in the summer, the time will be stopped and “Unchanged” during this period. Discombobulating? This is how it will work according to a decree from authorities:

1- Summer time shall be stopped during Ramadan month and winter time shall be enforced starting from Wednesday 11th August 2010. (Clock will be set backward one hour)
2- Summer time will be enforced once again by the end of Ramadan starting from Friday 10th September 2010. (Clock will be set forward one hour)
3- Summer time shall be continued- in accordance to law- to the end of last Thursday of September 30th 2010, and the winter time shall start by Friday 1st October 2010.
 


 

MANTA RAYS ON GOTA ABU RAMADA

 

Today Marieke Appelhof, dive instructor at Aquarius Dive Centre in Marriott Hotel was lucky enough to witness something few people ever get to see. On the renowned dive site of Gota Abu Ramada two manta rays were mating on the top of the reef. This is fantastic news for several reasons and it shows that Hurghada still has the marine life many think has abandoned the area. This time of year is traditionally when manta- and whale sharks are encountered and now we also know that the reproduction is secured. Hopefully the family will be keeping back to the area.
 

 


NEW WRECK IN DAHAB

 

In Dahab there is a new feature on the house reef of Dive In in form of a wreck of Swiss sailing yacht Samadhi that sank July 13th. According to information on Dive In’s facebook page nobody was injured in the incident and that the boat sunk at a perfect location for diving purposes!

 

“We have been the first ones diving there after we were asked to support the Egyptian environmental affairs agency” the staff from Dive In says and continues “Of course we loved it!”

 

See more pictures of this special house reef dive wreck on here.

 

 

 


 

 

New photographs of Geisum Oil Rigs
 

   

July 12th

These photographs comes from Mourad Samy, living and working in Belgum. He is a nature lover and environmentalist who thinks it's important to inform about the risks before it's too late. After the recent oil spill from the rig in Jebel al-Zayt, north of Hurghada he has given aziab permission to publish them here on Latest News. A friend of Mourad's cruising in the gulf of Suez sent him those photos. Mourad says "I hope the diving community as all authorities and protection institutions will make their best to talk about that announced catastrophe".

 

There are more then 180 oil rigs in the region, some of them in a very bad state and oil spills are the regular consequence of this type of bad maintenance. The government has declared that "the spill was not due to a platform and that ALL offshore platforms are "sound" I don't know If I would land my helicopter on that thing...

 

Mourad says that he's happy for anyone to use photographs and encourages to spread them largely.

 


 

Windy in Egypt

 

James Dawson, know as the featured photographer at aziab.com Reports from Emperor Divers that the last days of windy weather today made the coast guard to stop the boats from leaving the harbours and even recall the boats that already left. This actions were taken in the resort towns of El Gouna, Hurghada and Marsa Alam. The last few days the wind speed has been around 18-19 knots average and reached up to 29 in the gusts. Also the direction of the wind is making life difficult The wind forecast from the kite surfing website windguru doesn't look very much like it's going to slow down until earliest Wednesday evening.

 


 

Diver tracking system law extension

 

From CDWS News Letter

The deadline for safari boat operators to install a diver tracking system on all boats operating in remote sites in the Red Sea has been extended while further systems are approved by authorities. Safari boats now have until the end of 2010 to implement a diver tracking system to be used by law on remote sites, including the Brothers Islands and any site further south.

Two systems have been approved, with a further two undergoing tests. See the Rules and Regulations section on the CDWS website for more information.

 

 


 

What happened with the dead sharks?

 

After the Egyptian authorities, HEPCA and several Red Sea Liveaboard together managed so finally capture the Yemeni fishing boats that recently have been illegally fishing sharks in Red Sea waters, the question as of where the catch went has been raised. 

 

The illegal fishing has been going on mainly in the deep south area around St. John's Rocky, Zabargad, Daedalus and as far up as Brother Islands which is classic shark diving spots, well known to any Red Sea Diver. An attack on the shark population of this magnitude and at this time of year can be absolutely devastating since many shark species are congregating for mating. This means that one big catch can wipe out a large part of the sexually mature generation, making a huge dent in reproduction.

 

As it turns out the sharks captured by these fishermen was not finned but kept in one piece onboard which is a bit of a mystery. It was mainly Oceanic Whitetip, Tigers and Makos but also some Silkies and Grey Reef. All carcasses were confiscated, where of two were pregnant female Tiger Sharks. All of them were destroyed under supervision of Egyptian authorities and HEPCA. Nothing was sold or made any profit on. And nothing was left with the fishermen.

 


 

Dive Operators help cleaning up Red Sea Oil Spill

 

Ahmed Adly owner and Director of Deep Voyage has offered his Liveaboard Vessel M/Y Liberty, Crew and assistance to HEPCA for cleaning duty. When this wat written he have not heard back from them. Ahmed says "At the moment, we are waiting for the Environmental ministry to asses damage. Once anything is official, we are sure to have an opportunity to sue the oil company for damages." He continues "You see; this is one of those few cases, where tourism and investors are actually a good thing for the environment..... but for them, the oil people would have laid waste to this region a long long time ago. Food for thought. I would pray for the Americans now..... they have it so bad that it is raining oil." Ahmed is one very cleaver Dive Operator and has a well earned reputation as a "Good Guy". Hopefully more operators follow his lead and become more engaged in environmental issues.

 

Nobody seem to know exactly what the damage is or what's happening at the offshore platform of Jebel al-Zayt. Ahmed Adly confirms that some harm has already been recorded "Oil HAD washed up on some of the northern beaches, but largely nothing much more happened. No dive sites were hurt directly due to the spill thank God. Some of the northern islands have had some habitats hurt, but most think that we have a rare opportunity to clean it up." He also reassuringly continues "All in all it is under control." Hopefully Ahmed can report back to aziab when he returns from clean-up trip how bad or good the situation is.
 


 

Latest News on Red Sea Oil Spill

 

For more than a week, the oil platform off the resort of Hurghada in the Red Sea, quietly but surely been spilling oil out in the sea risking to damage over 160km of coastline.

 

The Egyptian government, fearing that the oil spill would harm the tourist season in the area known for its beautiful dive sites remained silent for several days. The only official statements were intended to reassure the little extent of damage. The members of government have ensured that the leak was controlled and that the beaches would be quickly cleared.

 

From the operators' side of the platform, the oil company Geisum Egyptian Oil is a low profile. Having received the ban on speaking to the media, employees have testified anonymously to specify that the leak occurred on the offshore platform of Jebel al-Zayt.


The environmental groups fear the worst for marine life and some protected areas have been affected: “Birds and sea turtles covered in oil have been recovered," said Ahmed el-Droubi, a biologist at HEPCA. According To the Egyptian government, hotels along the coast of Hurghada have not reported much oil on their beaches but that might be because they are too busy cleaning the beaches before the arrival of visitors.

 



HEPCA's News Letter regarding the oil spill

 

"The community of the Red Sea has once again stood up to protect our environment, livelihood and health. The valiant efforts of fishermen, dive operators, hotels and the local government to control the spill must be commended. The governorate has committed all its resources in manual cleanups at nearly all affected beaches in cooperation with the local community. The cleanup efforts over the past five days have been outstanding, over 90% of the impacted beaches on the mainland have been entirely cleaned, and work is still ongoing. Dive operators have expressed their relief that there is no apparent damage to any dive sites; and that business is back to normal.

The Northern Islands protected area is the most heavily impacted region. These islands are one of the few pristine areas in the northern Egyptian Red Sea, and are of high ecological value as they host a number of key habitats, including mangroves, sea grass beds, protected bird nesting grounds, turtle nesting grounds and an extensive reef system.

The spill was from an oil rig approximately fifty nautical miles north of Hurghada that began to leak on Wednesday the 16th of June; the leak has been sealed.

We are still fervently awaiting the Nature Conservation Sector’s assessment of the damages at as well as a statement declaring the identity of the rig that is visibly spewing out the oil!

The damage to Egypt's natural resources is a crime that must not go unpunished; and the complicity of any party with such a crime must be revealed and condemned. This incident clearly reveals that the oil concessions of the Ministry must be reconsidered especially any concessions near key habitats, protected areas and tourism hot spots.

We must continue to push as a community for the protection of our natural environment we must take a collective stand and clearly state that we shall not allow corruption and greed to destroy our ecosystem, livelihood and health."

 


 

CDWS statement on oil spill
 

Charlotte Boan, spokesman for Chambre of Diving and Water Sports says in a press release:


"Egypt’s Chamber of Diving and Watersports (CDWS) can confirm all member diving and watersports centres are operating as normal in the resorts of El Gouna and Hurghada following the recent oil spill. The spill, which has been classified as ‘limited’, is thought to have been caused by a leak at an offshore Red Sea oilrig situated 40 miles north of El Gouna.

According to latest information received by the CDWS, the main concentration of oil and the most polluted area is far north of El Gouna near a bird sanctuary. Around 12 hotels in the Hurghada and El Gouna area reported oil spills on beaches, however, the clean up of these areas for the last few days has been running successfully. It is hoped; most, if not all, oil washed up on the beaches will be cleared.

The Environment Affairs Agency (EEAA), together with the Center for the Combat of Petroleum Pollution and the Red Sea Protectorates Authority, is overseeing the clean-up operation.

CDWS cannot confirm the extent of the damage caused, however, CDWS member operations in the area have reported little signs of the spill. Dive centres from both El Gouna and Hurghada area, including Aquarius, Ilios Dive Club and Blue Brothers, said their guides had seen no signs of oil on the reefs and that following the clean up, most of the spill on shore had been cleared.

Hurghada-based conservation organisation HEPCA said in a recent statement that the efforts to contain the impact of the oil spill had been very successful.

‘More than 90 per cent of the beaches north of Hurghada were cleaned and the manual collection method has proven to be very successful,’ said the HEPCA statement. ‘Most of the hotels and resorts have informed us that their beaches are back to normal. More efforts are expected regarding the clean up of the northern islands of Um El Luhaimat and Tawila which are located around 30 miles north of Hurghada."

 

 

Oil Spill threatens Northern Red Sea

 

Massive oil slicks floating around in the northern Red Sea have been reported to Environmental authorities. Boats have encountered oil from Geisum in the El Gouna area in the North all the way down to to Sahl al Hashish in the South and some hotel beaches have been abandoned by their guests.

 

Egypt admitted yesterday that oil had leaked from one of several rigs operating off the coast of the Red Sea resort of Hurghada.

Government spokesman Magdy Rady said the spill was detected last week and has been largely contained. Oil company officials in the port city of Suez said the spill was caused by a leak from an offshore oil platform in Jebel al-Zayt, north of Hurghada.

 

Read more


 

ILLEGAL SHARK FISHING BOAT CAPTURED

 

June 16th

This Sunday Dive Guides and Crew from the Red Sea Liveboars Thunderbird and Desmondo managed to get more photographs of the illegally shark fishing boat from Yemen. They also alerted the Coast Guard who immediately responded with full power and managed to capture the foreign vessel and brought it together with its crew in to the Egyptian port of El Queseir.

 

 

Left:

This is one of the sharks found on the long-lines

 

 

According to HEPCA's there was also actions taken by the Red Sea Liveaboard Golden Dolphin III which, together with the other vessels managed to keep the perpetrator in the area until the Egyptian authorities arrived and made the official arrest. This past Monday HEPCA's own research vessel Red Sea Defender found  yet another two Yemeni fishing boats in open sea straight out from Hamata and two hours also these illegal fishing boats were in custody. All in all four Yemeni fishing boats has been apprehended.

 

Right: Hooks baited with  dolphin meat

 

 

Claudia, guide on Thunderbird (and more of a Red Sea Legend than most) came back to Hurghada today with some pictures and aziab was the first to get them and some more details on the successful action. According to Henrik Lynge's report today there are a lot of shark fins on the captured vessel. Around 11 km of long-lines with hooks baited by dolphin meat and juvenile sharks were collected in the area by Liveaboards Eldabran and Royal Evolution.

A shark fin is estimated to bring in about 200 LE while one single shark on Brothers Islands is estimated to bring in 1.250.000 LE yearly in Tourism revenue.

Left:

More than 11 km of hooked lines were recovered

 

Photos courtesy of Claudia Rechberger - MY Thunderbird/Deep Blue Cruises.


 

"OLD LATEST NEWS"

 

May 2010

 

Whale shark sightings in Hurghada

By Marieke Appelhof - Aquarius Dive Centre

 

James and Mac, one of the first dive centres in Hurghada, reports sightings of a whale shark on their website. On the 26th and the 27th of May they went the dive site Ben El Gebel, where they saw the shark. Some of their divers where even able to dive with it, a wonderful encounter!

The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is the largest living fish on earth and it feeds mainly on plankton. The largest measured individual was 12.65 metres of length and had a weight of more than 21.5 tonnes. But there have been reports of larger sharks. The shark is not dangerous for humans, although its size would presume something else. It’s quite gently and sometimes plays with divers.

The whale shark inhabits all tropical and warm oceans, in a belt of 30 ̊latitude north and south of the equator. It lives in open sea and has a life span of 70 years. Unfortunately the whale shark is targeted by commercial fisheries. The population is unknown and the species is considered vulnerable by the IUCN.

The shark is very recognisable by its size, big mouth, grey body, white belly and very distinguish pale yellow spots and stripes. These spots and stripes are unique for every shark and therefore very useful for researchers. They’re use to understand shark movement, population structure and feeding habits. This information can then be used for the conservation of this beautiful creature.

You can also help! If you have any pictures of your encounter with one of these friendly giant, you can send these with some other information (such as shark size, maturity and behaviour) to the Whale Shark Project (www.whalesharkproject.com). They’ll be used to understand the biology of the whale shark and that could help to protect them in the future.

On the website of the Whale Shark Project you can find more information about whale sharks and how to send in your pictures.

 


 

PURSUIT OF ILLEGAL SHARK FISHING BOAT CONTINUES

 

May 25th

Yet another encounter of the fishing boat from Yemen took place this week in the St. John's area. The vessel has also been spotted at Zabargad and Brother Islands. This time Red Sea Legend Henrik Lynge from Thunderbird of Deep Blue Cruises reports directly to aziab that several Liveaboard vessels in the area, Obsession, Sea Serpent, Longimanus, Golden Dolphin and Seven Seas, took up the chase and managed to get their Zodiac close enough to the illegally shark fishing boat to be able to take photographs of buoys, lines, and hooks. Dead sharks were found on the reef of Habili Ali and other sharks were still attached to the lines and hooks. The crew of the illegal fishing boat immediately cut the lines and disappeared south. Photo Left from HEPCA's News Letter

 

Amr Ali, Managing Director of HEPCA says that the Liveaboard Operators have been advised not to approach the violator too much since they are "not likely to sail unarmed". The Egyptian Navy is at the moment in pursuit of the Fishing boat with no less than three vessels. This is not only illegal fishing but also a violation of Egyptian borders. Amr Ali continues "If we don't close this door now it may have disastrous consequences".

HEPCA will issue a News Letter on the incident tomorrow May 26th.

 


 

SAVING THE WORLDS REEFS WITH RED SEA CORAL

 

Due to the higher average water temperature here, the coral in the Red Sea has become more temperature resilient than in other parts of the world. This have now lead to expert and scientists to star thinking in a fascinating direction - trying to rebuild reefs around the world with Red Sea Coral.

 

There have been several surveys on Red Sea Corals over the years and some of you might have seen the metal signs saying "Marine Park Study Site" and a number. All those surveys has shown that the Red Sea coral is in better state than expected.

 

Read more on Online Journal

 


 

MAINTENANCE ON MOORINGS IN THE SOUTH

 

Copied From HEPCA's News Letter:

The HEPCA mooring team undertook their seasonal maintenance round in the south. During their trip, 5th- 14th of May, they visited fifteen dive sites; including the ever popular Elphistone, Abu Dababab sites, Gotaa’ and Erg Marsa Alam, Sha’ab Nakari and the renowned Samadai Reef.

During their engaging nine days in the south the HEPCA mooring team surveyed all the moorings in the region. The team repaired 27 moorings, installed almost a dozen, in addition to conducting maintenance on the zone demarcation buoys at Samadai.

Sayed Marzouk the HEPCA Mooring Co-ordinator for the South expressed that he “is always thrilled by working on the pristine reefs on the south. And that he was delighted by the continued support provided by our members, which is the essence of the work that HEPCA does”.

Our team came back with an important message; they ask that all boat operators follow HEPCA’s Guidelines For Using Buoys; and report any violations or damaged moorings as soon as possible through the HEPCA website.

The HEPCA mooring team will return to the South soon and wishes you all an enjoyable diving season.

 


 

FALSE KILLER WHALE MORE COMMON IN THE RED SEA?

 

Csilla Páll, or Stella as she’s known to most of her friends, working for Shams Safaga had a good day when she and her guest got to experience the presence of a rather unusual visitor here in the Red Sea. It was a pod of false killer whales that joined them for a while, riding the bow wave and playing around the boat.

 

Even if you don’t come across this specie of whale very often it happens now and then Last time I heard of encounters was Elke Bojanovski from blue O two in March this year and before that a group of divers from Orca Dive Club Hamata on February 2009.

 

See more photos in Stella's facebook album

 

This is the story in Stella's own words

"The pics were taken on 07.05. we were going to Shaab Sheer east and before the dive site around 15 minutes they just appeared. they were following us till our divers didn't jump for the drift dive. 5 or 4 of them were playing front of the boat, jumping out and they were communicating with each other, it was quiet loud, cause we could hear it. also in the group, there was a bottle nose dolphin. i can not tell how many of them we could see, cause all the time one just left, 2 came again and etc... but front of the boat like 4 or 5."

 


 

BOATS STOPPED BY COAST GUARD

 

Thursday - May 20th.

The last few days it's been really windy on the Red Sea. A friend of mine who was flying from Sharm El Sheikh to Hurghada yesterday said the whole sea was white from breakers.

 

Today May 20th the Coast Guard decided to stop all daily boats from leaving the harbour in Hurghada and to be on a liveaboard on Brothers or other off shore dive sites must be ... interesting...

 

According to www.windguru.com next week it will be slowing down to more acceptable 14-18 knots in Hamata area, unpleasant 16-20 knots around Marsa Alam and in the north - Hurghada/Sharm el Sheikh are still rough with 24-28 knots.

 

 


 

BRIGITTE LENOIR DEAD

 

Friday - May 14.

Swiss Brigitte Lenoir, 40 from Monthey was training in Dahab by the Red Sea side aiming at breaking the female's world record for deep Rebreather diving this August when, at 147 meters, on ascending from 200 meters an accident happened due to a technical problem. Most likely reason was a problem in the valve that left the pure oxygen opened through the rebreather, which leads to hyperoxic toxicity. The body was not retrieved.

Authorities said a search has been organized to recover the victim's body, which is still missing. Read more

 

 


 

WHALE SHARK IN HURGHADA

 

A "small" whale shark was seen in the area between the island of Abu Ramada and the popular dive site of Gota Abu Ramada. It was around 4 meters according to lucky divers and snorkelers who happened to be at the right spot at the right time and on a boat with an observant captain.

 

This is not the first time whale sharks are encountered here and over the years it seems it's been happening around mid May. Also it seems to be mid sized individuals if that can have any significance.

 

 

 

 

 


 

LARGE POD OF DOLPHINS SPOTTED

 

A daily diving boat from Diving World was heading back to Sheraton Hotel Harbour when the captain suddenly signalled the horn to get everybody's attention. On the horizon it looked like the sea was boiling as a huge group of dolphins approached! Mieke, Dutch Instructor working with Diving World reports that she stopped counting somewhere around 50 individual animals as she realized that there was no point in going on.

 

"There was hundreds of them" she says "Adults and juveniles were playing around the boat and there was no end to it". Everybody was stunned by the spectacle and rumours has it that even the captain was crying.         

 

This event takes place every spring when the dolphins move up north. In the summer a lot of them hang around in the area around Shaab El Erg.


 

EGYPTIAN NAVY CHASES ILLEGAL FISHING BOAT

 

A fishing boat from Yemen was spotted fishing for shark in the St. John's area by a dive guide from blue O two who immediately reported the to HEPCA via Satellite phone. Amr Ali Managing Director of HEPCA managed to mobilize two Egyptian Navy Vessels that left the port of Safaga within minutes.

 

As it happens the perpetrators had already sneaked away and the hunt for the violators were unsuccessful. However, this proves that the will is there to enforce the laws and rules regarding shark fishing and that actions from dive guides out there can result in that measures are taken against environmental violators. Keep Reporting!

 


 

MATING SEASON STARTED FOR BLUE SPOTTED RAYS

 

Now the mating season for the blues potted ray is here and you can see them chasing each other over flat sandy sea beds all over the Red Sea. This is for sure a display more of action than romance and the actual mating act does not show much signs of affection.

 

The other day I saw one pair shooting across the bottom at Ras Desha and last year my friend Hilde - then working as an Under Water Videographer for Video Bubbles, now as an Instructor at Blue Paradise in Hurghada - managed to catch some rather hot moment on film. "A truly magical moment" as she describes it to aziab.

 

The blue spotted stingray or blue spotted ribbontail Ray Taeniura lymma is a rather extraordinary marine animals. It’s got two plates in their mouth which are used for crushing the shells of crabs, prawns, and molluscs.


The tail is a little longer than the body and has a spine about halfway down the tail. A sting can be extremely painful and potentially dangerous so if you do get stung immediately soak it in hot water and call a doctor!
 


 

OCTOPUS INVASION ON RED SEA REEFS

 

Normally the mating season for the Red Sea Octopus starts in the end of may to the beginning of June. This seems to be right on schedule this year because already now we see them all over the reefs. Yesterday I had 4 octopus encounters on Ras Desha.  Wicked! One of them was just sitting on top of a small coral block, another was inside with his two eyes sticking out scouting for a "buddy" one was walking around on the sandy sea floor while one was in the colour changing mode from being harassed by wrasses and goat fish.

 


 

EXTRAORDINARY ENCOUNTER ON FANOUS WEST

 

Ahmed from Aquarius Dive Centre in Marriott Hotel - Hurghada went to Fanous East on Sunday. Now w this is a dive site not normally viewed as "the best in the area" even though you can see cool things there now and then. This time Ahmed and his divers were lucky and got to swim with a manta inside the lagoon! Maybe they should have gone too Las Vegas instead...

It's fairly common to see Octopus, scorpionfish, stonefish and on occasion dolphins at this dive site but to have a manta hanging around like this is unheard of.


 

CLASSIC DIVE SITE MARSA ABU DABAB IN RISK OF DEVELOPMENTS

 

On February 14, 2010 Concord for Tourism Development S.A.E. held a public hearing in Hurghada and revealed their development plans for the Marsa Abu Dabab project, here are extracts taken from their promotional video “The Voyage” – Marsa Alam

“…internationally renowned restaurant, food and beverage outlets, retailers, cinemas and gourmet markets, as well as a host of other venues of every description.

This is where travellers will be entertained by stage shows, musicales, parades, dinner shows and live musicians from around the world…a multi-sensory experience that will compliment the resources offered by the Marsa Alam Oceanographic institute; a museum of Egyptology and education centre that will all be part of the Voyage… three 5 star hotels including a Hilton and Marriot…and in the future a sports complex…sparkling lagoons will host vessels of every size and description…A modern coastal resort entertainment complex…the very threshold of Marsa Alam’s future…”

One of the more controversial items was their plan to create artificial lagoons by diverting water from the bay into the “wadis.” This will be accomplished by creating 15m wide channels leading to large lagoons, which will be dug out just behind the bay of Marsa Abu Dabab. The investors claim that 30% of the water in the lagoons will be circulated daily to ensure that it doesn’t become stagnant, and that they have some of the leading environmental experts overseeing development of the project.

But there are many people, particularly in the diving community that are completely against the project. They have been voicing their concerns about the impacts this mass development will have on the turtles of Marsa Abu Dabab;

To help save the future of this wonderful natural bay and its inhabitants please log onto facebook and go to MAD GREEN SEA TURTLES by Jeff Goodman or sign petition at http://mgste.epetitions.net/

 


 

BABY WHALE SHARK SPOTTED

 

Guest and guides on the well known liveaboard Blue Melody had a rather different experience when they had the chance to snorkel with a juvenile whale shark. It was on the way back to the harbour when the captain signals and all the guests of course thought it was time for dolphin spotting. But there between Marsa Mubarak and Port Ghaleb they are all well surprises to realize that what they are looking at is a not even two metres long baby whale shark! "It was the prettiest thing I've ever seen" says John Clark, one of the lucky dive guests "And it just kept coming back to us like it really liked the attention" he continues, "It was a very nice ending to a Red Sea Dive Safari. 

 


 

SHARK ENCOUNTER ON AROUG GIGI

 

Mandy from Blue Paradise in Hurghada reports a zebra shark (a.k.a. leopard shark) on El Aroug Gigi. She had the opportunity to swim with the magnificent creature for some time before it decided to take off into the blue. Of course Mandy was very excited.

Over the years there has been sightings of this species on Camel Reef (a.k.a. Erg Abu Ramada) and Abu Ramada South. Probably it's the same individual.  

 

Zebra shark - Stegostoma fasciatum

Maximum size about 350 cm, average size between 250 and 300 cm. Present in the Red Sea all year around on sandy bottoms, shelves and plateaus just like the area around El Aroug.

 


 

DECO CHAMBER IN HAMATA

 

 

If you have planned to come to Egypt for a deep south liveaboard or maybe some daily diving around the Hamata area you can now relax. The well renown Decompression Chamber and Medical Clinic group DECO INTERNATIONAL has now opened their new facility in the new marina in Hamata. This is the chamber that was temporarily placed in Tondoba while waiting for the facility to be finished in Hamata. If you want to know more about them you can have a look at their website: http://www.deco-international.com/en for more info

 

If you have any news that you think should go into this section please feel free to email me on anders@aziab.com


 

HAMMERHEADS EARLY ON DAEDALUS

Large numbers of female hammerhead sharks are traditionally congregating around Daedalus Reef in the southern Red Sea from end of May till the beginning of August. This year they have already arrived and several dive guides report encounters with schools of up to 15 individuals of curious sharks "Up Close and Personal". Kevin - guide at blueOtwo reports meeting them as normal along the wall on depth but also that some guests met smaller groups of 4-6 individuals on the safety stop.

 

SENSATIONAL AMOUNT OF SILKY SHARK IN THE RED SEA

Many Red Sea dive guides' dream is to get a chance to see silky sharks. A few years ago they were not totally uncommon but the last few years their absence has been noticeable. Then all of the sudden they were spotted on Brothers, Daedalus and in the St. John's area. Now they are even spotted around the wreck of Thistlegorm which is previously unheard of.

 

HAMMERHEADS AND MANTAS IN SHARM EL SHEIKH

Reported by "Crowely" (photo right) from Sinai Divers in Sharm El Sheikh there are at the moment at least two, maybe three Manta Rays hanging around in the Nama Bay area.

He also lets us know that Grey reef sharks were spotted mating in early April at Jackfish Alley which is fantastic and some Hawksbill turtles spotted mating at the beginning of April.

The hammerheads at Jackson usually start from end of April / beginning of May, and there have already been sightings.

 

All in all everything seems to start early this year which might have something to do with the very mild winter we have had. It also makes the analytic brain start thinking is this is a fact that might fit into the "4 Year Cycle Theory"

 

If you have any news that you think should go into this section please feel free to email me on anders@aziab.com

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