It is shark-mania in Australia, and around the world right now.
Sightings are happening daily, surfers are hanging up their wetsuits for good, and the noise surrounding the introduction of culling measures is getting louder by the hour.
But spare a thought for our brothers and sisters in Reunion Island. Home to reigning world champion Amaury Lavernhe, the proud surfing nation is undergoing a shark crisis of a much larger scale.
Known as “la crise requin” – the shark crisis. Reunion Island has become known as the most dangerous place in the world for shark attacks. The ongoing situation that has pitted surfers against the government, beach goers against conservationists, and tourist officials against scientists as the debate on what to do grows.
The French territory, 140 miles from Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. According to The Telegraph, the island has had 20 shark attacks and seven fatalities since 2011. In the past five years, 13 per cent of all the world’s fatal shark attacks have taken place around the tiny, 40-mile-long isle.
Protests at Saint-Paul – Source: zinfos974.com
“After a quiet year in 2014, we thought the worst was behind us. But the tragedy continued, even uglier in 2015,” Reunion Island bodyboarder Maxime “Chapo” Gatued said.
“Since I got back in Bordeaux, France (for professional reasons), two of my friends have been attacked.”
Those friends were Eddy Chaussalet, who was bitten on his left forearm by a bull shark at Le Port in June. And “Rodolphe”, a local surfer from Saint-Leu, who was bitten badly on his right wrist and biceps on July 22.
“He (Rodolphe) will survive, but he is going to lose his right arm,” Chapo said.
Giteud said the two attacks happened shortly after the fatal attacks of a 22-year-old girl in February this year, followed by the fatal attack of 13-year-old up-and-coming surfer Elio Canestri during a surf training camp.
Tribute to Elio – Source: zinfos974.com
The Reunion Island government have now introduced a range of new ways to deal with the shark attacks in a bid to lose the grim distinction of being labelled the world’s most deadly island.
In October, they will install a 700-yard net along the popular Boucan Canot beach, and a 600m-long version at Roches Noirs; swimmers and surfers will be welcome at both.
Also, eight people are currently training to become “vigis” – underwater lookouts, who will patrol the shark nets with harpoon guns. The practice is something that Chapo and other bodyboarders and surfers around Reunion Island have done unofficially in recent years, much to the dismay of local law enforcement.
Lastly, the island’s fisheries committee have invented what they coin as “smart drum lines.” The drum lines send real-time information back to the land and allow the scientists to only fish for bull sharks – which are not endangered. They have tagged 90 bull and tiger sharks, in an attempt to track them.
Eventually, the committee is hoping to release real-time tracking, with alerts given when sharks approach beaches used by humans.
Fabian Thazar takes a break from his training to be a ‘vigis’ – one of Reunion’s eight underwater shark lookouts (Paul Grover/The Telegraph)
No one quite knows for certain why the sharks have arrived in such numbers, and so quickly. Some say it all began with the creation of a marine reef on the west coast in 2007 – more fish attracted more sharks.
Chapo believes the 1999 ban on shark meat being sold for human and animal consumption has resulted in the increase in shark numbers.
“Local fishermen stopped chasing those sharks because it was a waste of time and money,” he said.
“We suppose that was a perfect timing for them to invade our waters. Now professional fishermen have more and more difficulties to catch tunas or spear fishes without having those sharks biting them in half before they can even pull them into their boats.”
On the signs: “Who’s Next?” / “Give us back our ocean !”. Source: Tristan Dubourg.
While Chapo applauds the new introductions, he said more immediate action needs to be done to reduce the fatality count.
“Solutions are coming, but how many accidents will we have to endure before we get back to an acceptable situation?”
“We have no idea…”