Sharks, Sewage, and Scent Trails in the Red Sea

In the July issue of Undercurrent, you may have read the “Death of a Shark Diver, Redux” story. In the last part, Vanessa Richardson wrote about a French snorkeler in the Red Sea who bled to death from an oceanic whitetip’s bite. It most likely happened because two safari boats had been feeding sharks in the same area that day.

On that topic, here’s a letter I wrote to Amr Ali, head of the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association.


Dear Amr,

Oceanic whitetip sharks have been following freighters through the Red Sea for a very long time. This is because all the galley waste is habitually thrown over the side, and ideal food for scavengers. The bigger liveaboards now commonly used for diving in Egyptian waters do a similar thing. Not only that but they leave scent trails, and these scent trails are usually left next to dive sites.

What am I talking about? Something I have regularly complained about over the years, and that is the common practice of emptying sewage tanks over dive sites. I know that Egyptian engineers don’t like going into the engine room while the boat is underway, as it is hot and very noisy.  However, I have complained about them emptying the sewage while divers are in the water for the sake of the divers’ health.

Now we see a new dimension – the effect on scavenging sharks such as the oceanic whitetip.  Until such times as there is regulation to stop this unhealthy habit of emptying the sewage tanks while vessels are stationary, these sharks will continue to be drawn in – and be disappointed by the lack of food.

Hungry sharks can be dangerous. Please do something about it.


If you echo my concerns, please send your own comments to Amr and the HEPCA team at

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3 thoughts on “Sharks, Sewage, and Scent Trails in the Red Sea”

  1. Hi,

    Indeed sharks are a serious threat to all divers working nearby specially hungry ones. They should not ignore this fact since it will cause innocent lives and if someone died because of this, they should be the bait not those who dive to make a living.

    Here in the Philippines we only have few sharks and it is very very rare of shark attack.

    I am also working as a diver and I am creating my blog from my past experiances and give some tips as well for the sake of our fellow divers for professionals and beginners divers.

    Check out my blog:


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  2. Have you tried Sharm el Sheikh, its fantastic

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  3. If anyone has a shred of doubt about the aggressiveness and pugnaciously dangerous behavior of oceanic whitetip sharks, please be sure to read my upcoming blog post called “Shark Attack” that should be available soon. My dive partner was killed in 1972 and I was severely injured and bent when I went back to try to save him. We learned later that the sharks had been stimulated by low frequency sound in the water from nearby acoustical testing by Navy ships that we worked with routinely. Whether it’s low frequency sound, baiting, garbage or sewage… the last thing you want is to be in the water with agitated oceanic whitetip sharks. John Bantin is, as usual, dead-on right in his piece.

    Bret Gilliam

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