Whale shark makes rare appearance off shores of Hurghada

Vacationers and sailors at Hurghada sighted a specimen of the endangered whale shark on Friday, as it approached a boat off the shores of the Red Sea resort. 

The Red Sea Marine Park Authority, after confirming the incident, said the sighting is a rare occurrence and called on fishermen not to hurt the shark.

This marks the second time the species has been spotted off the coast of Hurghada in two months. Following a similar sighting in July, Environment Minister Khaled Fahmy instructed marine life experts in the Red Sea protectorates to monitor and protect the swim path of the fish.

The whale shark, known locally as the "bahlol", owes its name to its gargantuan size. Though specimen sighted on the Red Sea tend to range between five to six meters, the largest adults can reach up to 13 meters in length. The species is distinguished by the white, polka dot-like pattern on its skin, interspersed with pale stripes. Toothless, they feed mainly on plant plankton and pose no danger to humans.

Hunting the shark is banned in Egypt as the species is endangered; part of concerted efforts to preserve the Red Sea ecosystem, which is the habitat of several rare and endangered species.

Sightings of the whale shark are not common in the Red Sea, but Friday's sighting marks the fifth time the giant fish has been spotted in Egyptian waters this year, which marine experts consider a mark of success following recent environmental protection projects. The Red Sea protectorates have committed to uphold international agreements on protecting marine life.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm 

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