Oceanic Whitetip Shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) Silky Shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) Grey Reef Shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) Scalloped Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna lewini) Pelagic Thresher Shark (Alopias pelagicus) Whitetip Reef Shark (Triaenodon obesus)

Shark Monitoring Programme

The Red Sea Sharks Monitoring Programme uses qualified volunteers to record the sightings of shark species on dive sites on the Egyptian Red Sea

You can view some of the information that we have collected on recent sightings at different dive sites in interactive charting section below.

Monitoring Programme Details

Despite millions of visitors to the Egyptian Red Sea every year – and the jobs and revenues they create - we know practically nothing about one of our major marine attractions: Red Sea sharks. Taking into account the drastic worldwide population declines and fishing pressure in our region, this lack of scientific data needs to be rectified as soon as possible – if we want to have a fighting chance for effective conservation and management plans.

Who could be better fitted and more motivated to protect Red Sea sharks than locals and diving professionals themselves?

The ongoing daily underwater activities of all diveguides present a wealth of information, unparalleled by anything even the most dedicated researchers can collect on their own. This includes identifying species that are sighted, details on where they were sighted, their behaviour, and environmental conditions such as currents and water temperatures.

For now, our efforts are focussing on diveguides that are working on liveaboards visiting drop-off reefs and marine parks throughout the Egyptian Red Sea and the large, mostly predatory, shark species encountered there.

For those divers that are willing to dedicate some of their time to the collection of this kind of data on a reliable, longterm base, we will provide an electronic log sheet to be filled in for every safari week, plus an information brochure detailing the kind of information needed and how to record it.

If you are a diveguide working on any of the Egyptian liveaboards and are willing to support us by recording information on your shark sightings on a weekly base, please contact us here.

The complete dataset will not be made available to the public. However, information of general interest to divers and other tourists, such as latest reported shark sightings or sighting probabilities of certain species at certain reefs will be published on this website. The more detailed sighting data will be used for scientific analyses only, and will be made available for conservation purposes and their incorporation in potential future management plans.

Asking the diving community for reporting shark sightings is not our only method to collect data on our shark populations. We will continue to make use of photo-identification techniques for a variety of species as well as increase our efforts to utilize modern electronic devices (such as acoustic and satellite tags) to help uncover important information to protect sharks in the Red Sea.

Interactive Charting

Photo ID

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Red Sea Sharks Photo ID Programme Details

Photo-identification is a well-established tool in wildlife monitoring, both in terrestrial and marine ecosystems. It uses natural markings to identify and follow individuals of a wide variety of animal species, e.g. tigers, manatees, dolphins, whales and even octopuses.

A number of shark species have been studied worldwide applying this non-invasive technique, including spotted raggedtooth or sandtiger sharks (Carcharias taurus), whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), whitetip reef sharks (Triaenodon obesus) and great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias).

The ability to follow individuals over time provides valuable insights into the sharks' movements, site fidelity, habitat use, behaviour, intra- and inter-specific associations, and reproductive parameters.

In the Red Sea, the number of divers present all year round and the affordability and resulting widespread use of digital underwater cameras make photo-identification a valuable tool for elasmobranch (shark & ray) research. The collection of shark and ray photographs from both dive guides and tourists is the main objective of this study.

A minimum of 5 Red Sea species have natural markings suitable for this method:

For one of these species, the oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus), the catalogue is extensive, comprising of 33404 photographs and videos of 881 individuals from the Red Sea. It has been compiled since 2004 with the help of 923 contributors and continues to grow with more images being submitted.

Exploratory attempts to create similar catalogues for grey reef sharks (C. amblyrhynchos and silky sharks (C. falciformis are promising, and even the spot pattern of individual Zebra Sharks (Stegostoma fasciatum), although known to change with age, might provide sufficiently reliable information to apply photo-identification methods.

While initial efforts will be focussing on the large pelagic elasmobranch species, this research project will provide the platform to collect and store any kind of photographic material related to Red Sea elasmobranchs for scientific and conservation purposes.

Online Database

Oceanic Whitetip Shark - Carcharhinus longimanus

Oceanic whitetip sharks are pelagic sharks with a circumtropical distribution. Normally found in the upper section of the open oceans above deep water, they occasionally approach offshore islands and reefs.

Although maximums lengths of up to 4 m have been documented, the majority of individuals are less than 3 m long, with females growing slightly larger than males.

Oceanic whitetip sharks are probably the most interactive sharks, displaying self-confidence and curiosity towards divers, boats, and human activity in general.

This species is easy to recognise, with its conspicuous colour markings on all fins, the broad rounded first dorsal fin, and the wing-like pectoral fins. Overall body colour is grey to brownish.

Historically this shark species has been the most common open ocean shark in the tropics, but the high fishing pressures of the last decades has depleted numerous populations to worryingly low levels. Main threat is the high value of their large fin in the global shark fin trade.

Oceanic whitetip sharks have been classified as "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2006, their population trend as decreasing, but experts are lobbying to move them up to at least "endangered" status as soon as possible.

Like for most of the other large predatory sharks, the main concern regarding the depletion of oceanic whitetip sharks is their low reproductive potential; they reach sexual maturity at about 6-7 years, and give live-birth to 1-14 pups every two years after gestation periods of 9-12 months.

In the Red Sea, this shark species was regularly encountered along offshore reefs and islands, espellially in fall/early winter. Being the focus of a photo-identifications study since October 2004, we could document a sharp decline in sighted individuals, particularly in 2011. In 2012 however, a marked increase in sightings occurred in Daedalus (from June to November) as well as Elphinstone (in October and November).

Suitable markings

Oceanic whitetip sharks have multiple colour markings that can be used for individual identification. Given below is a list of the most obvious ones:

  • colour markings on ALL fins, especially the first dorsal and lower tail lobe

  • grey-to-white line from the eye to the pectoral fin

  • dark pigmentation patterns on the generally white underside of the body

  • scars or woulds on various body parts

Sightings of the same indiduals for up to 7 years have confirmed the stability of these natural markings, and therefore their suitability for longterm studies....

Individual Catalogue

The oceanic whitetip shark catalogue is our most comprehensive, Red Sea Sharks have analysed 33404 photographs and videos from 923 photographers. So far a total of 881 different sharks have been identified.

Collection of additional images, from the present as well as past years, will help to increase our knowledge of this species.

Grey Reef Shark - Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos

Grey reef sharks are rather stocky sharks with a maximum length of about 2 m. They are easily recognised by the conspicuous black band all along the trailing edge of the tail. In the Red Sea, most of them also have a white tip or margin on the triangular first dorsal fin.

They are widespread throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific, including the Red Sea. Because of their association with coral reefs, especially reef walls and drop-offs, they are commonly encountered by divers throughout their range. Because of their high site fidelity at certain sites, even modest fishing pressure has seriously depleted local populations; others are suffering because of the degradation of their coral reef habitats.

Once depleted, grey reef shark populations are slow to recover; they reach sexual maturity at about seven years of age, and give live-birth to a maximum of 6 pups every other year.

Their worldwide status is given as 'near threatened' while population trend is 'unknown'.

Suitable Markings

Looking through photographs from the last 4 years, a variety of natural markings appear suitable for photo-identification purposes:

  • the white tip/margin on the first dorsal fin

  • shape of the black/grey border along the tail

  • grey-to-white line from the eye to the pectoral fin

  • shape of white colour band on the flanks

  • irregular pigmentation patterns on various body parts

Photographs of the female shown above across more than five years show that these markings are stable enough to be used in this non-invasive technique.

Individual catalogue

Since April 2007, in a first attempt to create an individual grey reef shark catalogue, Red Sea Sharks have analysed 2549 photographs and videos from 105 photographers. So far a total of 67 different sharks have been identified, the majority from Brother Islands and St. Johns.

Collection of additional images, from the present as well as past years, will help to increase our knowledge of this species.

Silky Shark - Carcharhinus falciformis

Silky sharks are pelagic sharks found circumglobal in tropical waters, often near the edge of continental and insular shelves and slopes, and over deepwater reefs. With a maximum length of about 3.3 m, these sharks are among the larger species in the Red Sea. They are known for their inquisitiveness and curiosity towards boats and divers.

Lacking conspicuous fin markings this slender shark is best recognised by its rather small, triangular, round-tipped first dorsal fin, and the often metallic tinge to the overall grey-brownish coloration.

Not much is known about their movement patterns in the Red Sea. After being virtually non-existent at Egyptian dive sites since summer 2006, they made a spectacular return in 2010 appearing frequently at the offshore islands, in St. Johns and even close to the Sinai peninsula over the wreck of the Thistlegorm.

Globally, their open-ocean habitat makes them vulnerable to a wide variety of pelagic fisheries, most notably longlining and purse seining; they are taken in large numbers, with no available population estimates and most catches being unreported. Wherever analysed though, dramatic declines have been reported throughout their range.

One of the main concerns regarding silky sharks is their low reproductive potential; they reach sexual maturity at an age of 6-12 years, and give live-birth to a maximum of 6-15 pups every one or two years.

Their worldwide status is given as 'near threatened' while population trend is 'decreasing'.

Suitable Markings

Individual markings on silky sharks are not as obvious as the colour markings found on e.g. oceanic whitetip or grey reef sharks. Identifying them is more challenging and might require higher quality photographs than for the other species, but it is possible especially looking at:

  • shape and notch pattern on the first dorsal fin

  • notch patterns on other fins

  • grey-to-white line from the eye to the pectoral fin

  • scars or irregular pigmentation patterns on various body parts

Some of these markings will need to be examined for stability over time, since the maximum period between different photographs of the same individual is, at the moment only 3 months...

Individual Catalogue

In a first attempt to create an individual silky shark catalogue, Red Sea Sharks have analysed 1050 photographs and videos from 46 photographers. So far a total of 33 different sharks have been identified, the majority from Brother Islands and Daedalus.

Collection of additional images, from the present as well as past years, will help to increase our knowledge of this species.

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