Minister of Environment Khaled Fahmy confirmed the return of a whale to the shore of North Coast, near Marbella resort, last night at the same place where it had first tried to exit.
“This whale is probably lost or willing to resettle in Egypt, or it may die. We cannot deduct the reasons behind its presence in Egyptian waters, nor the presence of other species like sharks,” Fahmy said.
This came during a meeting of the sub-committee for energy and environment by the ministry to outline the phenomenon of the prevalence of sharks and whales near Egyptian shores, which has become an issue of public concern over recent months.
Fahmy attributed the uncertainty that surrounded the presence of those whales to emerging climate change. He suggested conducting a thorough study based on surveillance for the entire Mediterranean shore, and said there is a possibility of launching air surveillance if more whales appeared.
The fin whale was spotted in early July in the Marina compound during Eid Al-Fitr celebrations, bringing with it a wave of concern and confusion. The whale is still an infant and about 5 to 6 metres long, which is short compared to the average size of whales. Ministry officials suggested that this whale could have lost its herd.
Azza El-Ganayny, member of the National Institute of Oceanography & Fisheries, said there are many species of whales that currently resettle in the Mediterranean Sea. “Nineteen out of the world’s 78 species of whales currently live in the Mediterranean,” she stated.
However, whales do not pose any threat to human beings, which is why officials and researchers recommended treating the whale with tolerance. It was reported that some citizens had thrown rocks at the whale as it approached the shore.
“It’s very important not to disturb whales because they are relatively rare species,” Noor A. Noor, executive coordinator at Nature Conservation Egypt told Daily News Egypt. “Their safety should not be less important than our safety, and an ecological balance should be maintained.”
Noor recommended conducting thorough research to contain those kinds of situations, and to increase people’s awareness and eliminate their panic, as a measure of psychological safety.
A few days after the whale appeared in Marina, a shark attacked a fisherman in Ain Sokhna while he was fishing.
The ministry said this attack might have been triggered by malpractices in fishing or other general non-environmentally-friendly practices, without mentioning further details.
Regarding the victim of the attack, the ministry said the area where he was fishing is considered home to many sharks, and that sharks cannot differentiate between humans and fishing bait, especially during high temperatures.
Climate change may be one of the biggest threats facing whales and dolphins nowadays, according to a study made by the UK-based Whale and Dolphin conservation (WDC).
Some whale and dolphin populations may not be able to adapt to rapid climate changes. The effect of those changes can be seen in sea temperature, freshening of seawater, acidification, rise of sea level, loss of icy polar habitats, and the decline of food sources. These are just a few of the many threats posed by climate change, WDC stated.
In 1975, 16 Mediterranean countries, including Egypt, adopted the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP)—the first-ever Regional Seas Programme under the umbrella of the United Nations Environment Programme, known as the Barcelona Convention. The MAP objectives are ensuring sustainable management of natural marine and coastal resources, among other things.