A sign with the inscription "Swimming Prohibited" and an image of a shark installed on a dock at the exclusive Automobile Touring Club (ATCL) in Kaslik, along with a recorded message warning about possible sharks in the area, sparked panic on social media Wednesday.
In the message, a regular swimmer at the club claims that swimming is currently forbidden due to the presence of a shark "in the port" of the complex.
Naaman Khoury, the maritime officer at the ATCL, confirmed to L'Orient-Le Jour that the sign had been placed "as a preventive measure," but did not confirm whether there was a shark in the surrounding sea, as he has not personally observed one. "According to the accounts of fishermen who briefly spotted the animal, its length is estimated to be between 1.5 to 2 meters, and it is white in color. In my opinion, it could be a harmless white sand shark."
"If it is indeed a shark, it would simply be passing through," he said. "As a boat captain, I constantly see animal carcasses floating on the shores. This could explain why sharks come here to feed."
Baits and safety nets
Khoury added that "specific baits" have been installed to confirm the possible presence of sharks. "We need several days to know the answer," he added. "I have also set up nets," he emphasized.
Manal Nader, director of the Environmental Institute at the University of Balamand, told L'Orient-Le Jour the club's baits could be harmful, consumed by dolphins and attract more sharks.
The Lebanese army, coastguards, and the Ministry of Agriculture have been informed of the situation, Khoury said.
Another video also circulated on social networks showing an unusual wave formation in Jounieh Bay, which Internet users are attributing to the supposed shark in the area.
According to Nader, it is "probably not an animal" that produced the waves. "It's certainly not a shark. If it were, you'd see its fin," he said, adding that if it were another marine animal, such as a dolphin or an orca, "the animal's body would appear on the surface."
The Mediterranean Sea is home to more than 45 species of sharks, but "they are all (or almost all) harmless," Nader said. "Their behavior differs significantly from sharks found in the Pacific or other seas," he said, adding that typically they do not approach coastlines. "In Lebanon, we have no history of shark attacks." He criticized overfishing of the animals.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one-third of shark species are threatened with extinction due to overfishing, bycatch and killing.
Only five species are dangerous to humans.
"Although sharks are carnivorous fish, humans are not part of their diet," Nader explained. "That's why, usually, people attacked by sharks are not devoured by the animal but rather succumb to their injuries."
He added that the mere presence of sharks is not a problem. For example, near the shoreline of the American University of Beirut (AUB), there is an area inhabited by nurse sharks where many divers swim without encountering danger.