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Red Sea One of World's Most Prolific Shark Breeding Grounds

August 04, 1985|Associated Press

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — Saudi scientists exploring Red Sea waters have reported the region to be one of the most prolific shark breeding grounds in the world.

A total of 63 sharks were caught in one area in four hours, Khaled Allam, marine biologist at the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources' fishery division, said.

There have been no official reports of shark attacks in the Jidda area, Allam said. But he cited a recent Coast Guard report on the death of a fisherman from Jizan, on the southwestern Saudi coast, by a tiger shark.

Referring to a shark study conducted recently off Jizan, Allam said there are four shark species in the Red Sea that can be dangerous to man: the tiger shark, the hammerhead, the white-tipped and the black-tipped.

The tiger shark is the deadliest of the four, he said. Long known as a man-eater, the tiger shark is distinguished by its brown spots and vertical bars on its body, giving it the appearance of its namesake.

The tiger shark is found in most of the world's oceans and is omnivorous, feeding on fish, other sharks, mollusks, carrion and garbage. It is extremely aggressive.

Almost as dangerous is the black-tipped shark. Smaller than the tiger shark, it is distinguished by the black tips on its fins. Closely related is the white-tipped shark. As its name implies, it is distinguished by white tips on its fins. It is less aggressive than the tiger or black-tip, according to Allam.

The fourth potential man-eater in the Red Sea is the hammerhead. Easily identified by the distinctive shape of its head, which may either be like a spade or a hammer, hammerheads have one eye on either side of the "hammer."

Scientists believe that hammerheads, which are swift and powerful, use their heads as a kind of rudder. Hammerheads' preferred prey are stingrays, skate fish and other sharks.

Allam says that hammerheads are less aggressive than tiger and black-tipped sharks and that if one is spotted, it is best to keep still until it passes.

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