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Shark Hunt Called Off By Mayor of Reunion Island

Shark Hunt Called Off By Mayor of Reunion Island

After the death last week of a surfer reportedly because of a bull shark in the waters off Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, Thierry Robert, the mayor of St. Leu commune, had called for a shark hunt. Fishermen would, he said, be paid to hunt and kill sharks “by any means” including spearfishing and the town would buy all those larger than five feet. For the first 30 sharks hunted, €2 per kilo of live weight were offered.

But, thanks to the efforts of animal conservationists, Robert has been forced to withdraw his plan as it violates French conservation law under which fishing or hunting “by any means” are banned in marine protected areas.

Reunion Island is a French-administered territory between the Indian Ocean between Mauritius and Madagascar.

Local residents had reportedly welcomed Robert’s plans, with almost 300 surfers gathering in front of the local government building to demand that hunting be allowed in the preserve. While there were no shark attacks in the waters of Reunion Island from 2000 – 2010, there have been seven attacks and three fatalities since 2011.

Robert said that the call to allow hunting of the bull sharks was to “act to safeguard the security of goods and people of his town.” But as Allison Perry, shark expert and marine scientist for Oceana Europe, was quoted in the Guardian, “Obviously the loss of human life is a concern for the government but a move such as this is worrying as we don’t know what the potential impact would be on the bull shark population.”

It is the case that reports of shark attacks around the world have been increasing. On Monday, a man barely survived after encountering a great white shark in the waters off Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The International Shark Attack File says that 2011 saw 12 deaths from “unprovoked” shark attacks; this year there have been five fatalities globally. After a number of shark attacks, Western Australia is going so far as to reconsider the national protected status of the great white shark.

Such demands overlook the simple fact that sharks worldwide are endangered. Up to 73 million sharks — a shocking number — are killed each year. Shark attacks receive lots of publicity but, as Oceana Europe‘s Perry emphasizes in the Guardian:

“It’s important to keep in mind what sort of numbers we’re talking about. In 2011 worldwide there were 12 fatal unprovoked shark attacks reported, in 2010 there were six. Over those two years, there is an increase but in actual numbers this is relatively small. As far as the numbers of sharks go, we’re much more dangerous to sharks than they are to humans.”

Perry pointed to a 2011 Australian study that found a connection between an increase in shark attacks and an increase in humans going to beaches, participating in water-based sports and visiting areas that had been long isolated. Perry underscored that “when it comes to shark attacks, surfers and swimmers tend to be more at risk but it’s important to remember that these people are entering the habitat of a wild animal.”

Certainly the sharks have been in the water long before anyone ever thought of paddling out on a board to try the waves. Communities like those on Reunion Island do depend on their beaches, and the chance to swim in their waters, for their economy. But hunting sharks with spears offers no real solution.

Related Care2 Coverage

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90 comments

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10:47AM PDT on Oct 6, 2012

Bravo au maire de La Réunion !

6:18PM PDT on Aug 12, 2012

if the 73 milllion greedy self centered asses who stuff cruelty shark fins into their faces had to trade their lives for every shark killed, the situation would change to a much fairer blance. Sharks want nothing to do with mutated apes surfing in their home much less slaughtering them, so stay out of their home or face the consequences.

1:57AM PDT on Aug 8, 2012

lost half of my comment...

1:53AM PDT on Aug 8, 2012

I am from Réunion island, former surfer but only apnea and scuba diver now, and it is a very complicated problem.
First of all, please don't bash french people for the behaviour of 300 surfers beeing terrorised by the brutal loss or injuries of some friends and family.
Keep in mind that the mayor behaviour is only guided by its need to be re-elected, he'll do exactly what he thinks that must be done to get the vote of the majority of people, and he recently realized that surfers usually don't take time to vote and are few.
Can you realize that Réunion island is sadly the N°1 place in the world if we consider the population/shark attacks ratio? It is safer to swim in australia than in reunion island coasts. Moreover, people from reunion, including me, know that sharks are present all around the island, BUT and that is the biggest problem, the west coast from saint leu to boucan canot was meant to be safe and there were no known attacks for like 40 years... And surfers were acting like there was no risk... And nothing happened till the brutal 2011. You have to imagine that when the first attack happened (that wasn't deadly) we thought that it was only an "accident" and that thing would come back to "normal". But now, beaches that use to be full of surfers are empty, diving is forbidden, and tourists prefere to go to mauricius. There were surf school and an entiere economy (including mine) based upon the beaches activity, and it is all over now. Surprising

1:49AM PDT on Aug 8, 2012

I am from Réunion island, former surfer but only apnea and scuba diver now, and it is a very complicated problem.
First of all, please don't bash french people for the behaviour of 300 surfers beeing terrorised by the brutal loss or injuries of some friends and family.
Keep in mind that the mayor behaviour is only guided by its need to be re-elected, he'll do exactly what he thinks that must be done to get the vote of the majority of people, and he recently realized that surfers usually don't take time to vote and are few.
Can you realize that Réunion island is sadly the N°1 place in the world if we consider the population/shark attacks ratio? It is safer to swim in australia than in reunion island coasts. Moreover, people from reunion, including me, know that sharks are present all around the island, BUT and that is the biggest problem, the west coast from saint leu to boucan canot was meant to be safe and there were no known attacks for like 40 years... And surfers were acting like there was no risk... And nothing happened till the brutal 2011. You have to imagine that when the first attack happened (that wasn't deadly) we thought that it was only an "accident" and that thing would come back to "normal". But now, beaches that use to be full of surfers are empty, diving is forbidden, and tourists prefere to go to mauricius. There were surf school and an entiere economy (including mine) based upon the beaches activity, and it is all over now. Surprising

2:29AM PDT on Aug 7, 2012

Why the hell would we need to kill them? So people can enjoy their hobbies without having to worry? That's stupid, this is absolutely not a solution. The image of "man-eating monster" has been popularized by fictional movies of the past.. it's so sad. The shark is one of the most misunderstood creature ever. Accidents happen, of course, but some happen with dogs, elephants, tigers or even bears. Do we talk about them? Do we need to kill every animal that could represent a danger? This is the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard but I’m really guessing it’s what that kind of people think! Stop blaming sharks for being wild; wouldn’t you defend yourself if you felt invaded or threatened?

It’s good to read comments of people supporting their cause, thank you so much! :)

6:55AM PDT on Aug 6, 2012

One small step in the right direction..........

6:56PM PDT on Aug 5, 2012

Glad the hunt was called off..............

2:31PM PDT on Aug 5, 2012

Good for the animal conservationists and long life to the sharks!

8:45AM PDT on Aug 5, 2012

kudos to the animal activists for coming to the aid of the shark sorry a life was lost but a shark reacts instinctively and the shark is not at a fault to not do what he only knows to do by GOD's plan

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