Beachgoers flocked to and from a fin whale that made its way to the North Coast’s shore last week, some hovering close enough to take a picture of the world’s second largest animal, others trampling out of the water to avoid it for that very reason. The whale was spotted in the Marina compound during Eid-Al-Fitr celebrations, bringing with it a wave of concern and confusion as to how it got there, and most importantly, what its arrival tells us.
The fin whale, marked by a long, elegant frame and dusty complexion, can be found in large bodies of water across the world, with an undetermined amount residing in the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the mammal tends to frequent the deeper, darker ends of the sea, where krill are prominent and bystanders are not. Though they are migratory creatures, they are not meant to flourish by the coast—signaling that deeper environmental triggers could have led this whale to abandon its niche.
It is a problem long-imbued in Egyptian affairs, one countered by environmental advocacy groups such as Nature Conservation Egypt and Greenpeace Mediterranean─organisations working to reduce Egyptian’s ecological footprint and undo the damage that has been done to its lands, seas, and animals.
Such environmental advocates claim that when the tourism industry meets the surrounding layout, the economic value of the former tends to hold more prominence over the environmental decay of the latter.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, hotels frequently dump waste into the sea, causing pollutants to reign supreme and oceans to take on a toxic toll. Other anthropogenic threats, such as boating collisions and acoustic pollution, are placing the already-endangered fin whales in a precarious position.
This whale’s arrival reflects a stream of non-native species puncturing Egyptian shores. Just last June, a Mako shark entered Ain Sokhna and left a 23-year-old Egyptian swimmer bitten, bloody, and legless. Last year, a sperm whale was found in Marsa Matrouh, only to be shot down by authorities. YouTube videos show the whale’s carcass floating to the shore, red blood piercing the blue of the seas.
This time around, the Environment Ministry is advocating for the whale to not be shot; that unprovoked fin whales are not a threat.
The ministry issued a statement early on Sunday saying that the whale has not been seen since Friday morning 800 metres from the shore of Marbella resort. The statement cleared that possibilities now are that the whale is either dead ashore, managed to reach high seas, or habitating areas near the shore. Efforts are currently underway to track down the whale and return it to its natural habitat.
Despite this statement’s attempt to quell the fear of resort-goers, the reason for the whale’s visit is still unclear, with more potential environmental repercussions leaking into the future.