Friday, December 10, 2010

Egypt: Oceanic Whitetip Shark Photos

oceanic whitetip shark
These photos of an oceanic whitetip shark at Elphinstone reef in Egypt's Red Sea were donated to Shark Defenders by Christophe Jurdan for our use in educational materials, particularly the shark layer we are producing on Google Ocean (viewable on our blog or by downloading the Google Earth program).

There has been a lot interest in the oceanic whitetip sharks of the Red Sea lately, so I thought it would be timely to share these photos on our blog.

oceanic whitetip shark
An oceanic whitetip shark is being blamed for biting several tourists in Egypt, including a fatality.  These recent shark encounters have once again shone a light on the nearshore interactions between humans and the largest species of sharks. These recent encounters have resulted in a media frenzy and literally thousands of newspaper stories in print and online.

If it pans out that an oceanic whitetip was indeed involved in these interactions, the fatality would be the second unprovoked oceanic whitetip fatality in recorded history. While oceanic whitetips are suspected culprits in hundreds, if not thousands, of at-sea disasters, there has only been a single case of one being involved in a fatality.

oceanic whitetip shark
In the meantime, humans have killed millions of oceanic whitetips for just their fins, which is used as an ingredient in a luxury soup in some Asian countries. As a result of this overfishing, worldwide this species is assessed as Vulnerable, but in the Northwest and Western Central Atlantic it is Critically Endangered. Scientific data has shown that populations in the Gulf of Mexico have declined by 99.3% since the mid-1950's.

oceanic whitetip shark
The recently concluded meeting of the International Convention of the Conservation of Tuna voted to ban the fishing and sale of oceanic whitetips and and six types of hammerheads. This is good news for a charismatic species on the brink of extinction.

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