After the recent shark incident in Hurghada, The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) recalls for an emergency plan to protect Marine Ecosystem and stop overfishing.

After the recent shark incident in Hurghada, The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) recalls for an emergency plan to protect Marine Ecosystem and stop overfishing.

ECESR followed up the recent incident of a Russian tourist who died after being mauled by a shark attack off one of Hurghada beaches in Egypt’s Red Sea

This is considered the second incident during a year, despite the growing warnings of specialists from the possibility of occurrence of Shark attacks in the Red Sea due to overfishing and recreational fishing violations which caused a change in the behavior of sharks, pushing them to approach shores, which poses a potential danger to human life.

A video circulating online, purportedly of the attach, shows a Russian young man screaming for help while swimming alone off one of Hurghada beaches before being fiercely attacked by a Tiger Shark circulating around him and ending his life in less than two minutes, in an unusual behavior from these kind of sharks which inhabit the Seabed of Red Sea, and scarcely approach shoal.

Furthermore, the circulating videos showed killing the shark after an operation led by Hurghada Authorities to hunt the shark two hours after it stayed near the shore after the attack. Then, the Ministry of Environment explained that operation as a commitment to international protocols which oblige authorities with the necessity of hunting the shark for examination and dissection.

The Center sends it condolences to the family of the Russian tourist, and repeats its call which was issued in a research paper on August 2022 based on a report issued last July by an official committee composed of a number of specialists, including dr.Mohamed Salem Abdulrahman, the Head of the Nature Protection Sector at Environment Affairs Department, and dr.Mahmoud Hasan Hanafy, the Professor of Marine Environment at the Faculty of Science at Suez Canal and a counselor to Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA), to prepare a technical report regarding the two attach incidents against two tourists, one of them Austrian and the other Romanian in Sahl Hasheesh Hurghada.

At that time, the committee proposed a number of measures, including the implementation of a sustainable management plans based on the absorptive capacity of Marine Environment to avoid the occurrence of such accidents, and implement a comprehensive management program for the diving sites in all diving and snorkeling regions with the aim of preserving the site and its environmental, scientific and economic value. In addition, safeguarding divers from shark attacks as a start for the implementation of a comprehensive program to manage the diving sites in all Red Sea regions.

Moreover, the Committee called for the implementation of a program to monitor, control and implement law through devices that follow up cruise ships, in addition to establishing artificial diving sites with the aim of mitigate pressure and overuse of diving sites on natural coral reefs which are one of the most significant reasons for shark attacks. Furthermore, stopping encroachment on natural resources in the Red Sea and implementing a plan to regulate fishing in the Red Sea with the aim of decrease fishing to 50% during 3 or 4 years, while raising the technical capabilities of Environment’s researchers to deal with shark attacks incidents.

The Egyptian Center had warned from the dangers faced by Red Sea reserves which represent a grave danger on marine and environmental life, in addition to its effects on tourist and economic sectors represented in the increase of violations in overfishing and recreational fishing that threaten Egypt national treasures of coral reefs and marine mammal.

According to dr.Mahmoud Hasan Hanafy, the Professor of Marine Environment at the Faculty of Science at Suez Canal and a counselor to Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA) in the aforementioned paper, the natural fish stocks have reached a critical limit which calls for the necessity to preserve what remains from living natural recourses in the region which are considered the main pillar for investment in tourism, together with its importance to the national income.

Hanafy explained that this rate has reached to the limits of 20 thousand tons annually, while it is supposed to not exceed 2000 tons per year as a maximum, as the increase in this number means the loss of a large number of fish mothers and the decrease in reproduction rate, and the consequent effects on marine life generally.
Article No.28 of Law No.4 of 1994 regarding promulgating the Environment Law stipulates that any of the following acts shall be prohibited:

“firstly: hunting, killing, catching birds and wild animals or marine living organisms; as well as possessing, transporting, importing and exporting of offering to sell such birds and animals, either dead or alive, as a whole, in part or their derivatives, or practicing activities that tend to destroy their natural habitats or properties or damage their nests, eggs or their offspring. The executive regulation of this law shall determine species of these creatures and sites to which the provisions of the above mentioned paragraph shall apply.

secondly: cutting or damaging plants as well as, possessing, transporting, importing and exporting, or offering them to sell as a whole, in part or their derivatives and products thereof, practicing any activities that tend to destroy their natural habitats or change their natural properties or habitats. The executive regulation of this law shall determine species of these plants.

Thirdly: collecting, possessing, transporting, or offering to sell kinds of fauna and flora fossils or changing their features; as well as destroying their distinguished geological formations or environmental features or harming their aesthetic value in the Natural Protected Areas.

Fourthly: trading in all endangered living organisms of fauna and flora species; their breeding or planting in sites other than their natural habitats without obtaining a license from Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA). The executive regulation of this law shall determine species of these creatures and license conditions.”

Article No.84 stipulates “without prejudice to any more severe penalty prescribed in another law, any person violating provisions of Article No.28 of this law shall be subject to imprisonment and/or a fine of not less than five thousand L.E and not more than fifty thousand L.E.
In all cases, the court shall order confiscation of seized bired, animals, living organisms, plants and fossils, as well as machinery, weapons, equipment, means of transportation used in committing the crime.”

Article No.24 of Law No.4 of 1994 stipulates that “environmental monitoring networks with their stations and working units shall be formed, pursuant to the provisions of this law, and shall undertake, in their respective fields of specialization, to monitor the components and pollutants of the environment on a regular basis and make the results available to the authorities concerned. For the fulfillment of the foregoing, the networks may call on the assistance of research centers and competent authorities which shall furnish the networks with the studies and information they request.”

It is worth mentioning that the Hurghada accident is not the first of its kind in Egypt, as according to official reports issued by the Ministry of Environment, 5 previous incidents occurred, including two in 2015 and 2016. The first incident occurred in Marsa Alam to a German tourist which caused his death, and the second one occurred to an Egyptian young man in Ain Sukhna.

Paragraph (f) of Annex No.4 of the Executive Regulations of the Environmental Law, issued by Prime Minister’s Resolution No.388 of 1995, stipulates that fishing may be prohibited, by a decision of the competent authority in coordination with the Environmental Affairs Agency.

Moreover, Article No.3 of Law No.146 of 2021 stipulates “it is prohibited to fish, collect, transport, or possess sea turtles and marine mammals from the sea, lakes, or other water bodies, or tamper with their places of existence and breeding, according to the circumstances, along the Egyptian shores or in marine waters, except with a permit from the Agency. The executive regulation determines rules, conditions and measures of granting permission.

Moreover, Article No.34 stipulates that “without a license from the Agency, it is prohibited to use any boat for fishing. The executive regulation shall specify the license data, its term, the conditions and procedures for its issuance and renewal. It is also prohibited for any person to practice the fishing profession, unless he has a fishing card. The executive regulation shall specify the data of the fishing card, and the conditions and procedures for obtaining it.”

According to the recommendations of specialists, the Egyptian Center renews its warning from the destructive human activities to marine life in the region, and calls for combating and stopping them as soon as possible. Moreover, the Center reaffirms that the Red Sea is not a fishing region, and that economic and environmental value of its fish while alive is much higher than its value when it is dead, especially with the importance of its presence in its environment as a tourist attraction, pointing to the impact of poaching in making coral reefs more vulnerable to climate change conditions, due to practices that disrupt the ecosystem.

Furthermore, it stresses that the reefs in the Red Sea are a unique national and heritage wealth, and may be the last coral reefs in the world, especially with the rise in sea temperatures in all countries of the world, as a result of the effects of climate change, which pushes the algae that live with coral to leave them, and causes the occurrence of coral bleaching phenomenon.

According to the advisors of HEPCA, ECESR adds: “this phenomenon has caused the loss of 50% of the coral reefs from the Great Barrier in Australia, in just one year, so the importance of these reefs in the Red Sea transcends local and regional borders, however has become of international importance, as a cultural and human heritage that must be preserved from extinction.”

The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) continues its appeal to government and responsible agencies to quickly implement the recommendations of the technical committee regarding measures to save marine life in the Red Sea region, and to stop the practices of poaching in it, while reducing the waste of marine resources due to human and tourism activities.
Moreover, the Center renews its call for action before international organizations such as the United Nations and UNESCO to declare the Red Sea region as a world natural heritage site, given its unique environmental importance, as well as contributing to protecting its existence and preserving it for future generations, which in turn contributes to enhancing the country’s access to financial support, in order to enhance the efforts to protect the Red Sea region, as well as increasing the volume of tourist flow to it, especially for those interested in eco-tourism.

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