Indian Ocean paradise island beset by shark controversy
Sharks of Reunion Island
The dangers of shark attacks are no secret for Georges, who as a kid was repeatedly warned to beware of the large predators lurking in the tropical waters off his native Reunion island, AFP reports.
That was several decades ago, and the issue since then has mushroomed in the French Indian Ocean island following several deadly shark attacks, sparking a tug of war between those who want to protect the fish and those who would like to see preventative culls.
“We always talked about sharks in the Reunion. When I was a kid, our parents were already warning us,” said Georges, who did not give his surname, as he took in the rays on a beach protected from the sea predators by a coral reef.
But the 48-year-old, who now lives in mainland France and was holidaying on the island, said the issue had become increasingly high-profile in recent years, “because the attacks have multiplied.”
Since 2011, there have been 12 shark attacks in the Reunion, of which five were deadly.
Just this year, a French honeymooner died when he was attacked by a shark as he surfed, and a teenage girl was killed while swimming just metres from the shore.
Swimmers, tourists, surfers, fishermen, politicians, authorities, activists: all have firm — and often discording — opinions on how to handle a situation that is harming the Reunion’s reputation as a paradise destination.
While none deny that shark numbers have increased, they differ on the reasons for this recent spike.
Some point to the wastewater that is discarded into the sea from ever-expanding urbanised zones, full of organic compounds that the sharks come to devour.
Others blame the 40-kilometre (25-mile) long natural marine reserve along the coast — created in 2007 — where fishing is either banned or strictly regulated.
“This reserve has become a pantry for sharks,” one surfer said.
“They settle where they know they can feed themselves.”
— Preventive culls —
And aside from the reserve, professional shark fishing in general has come to a halt.
In 1999, authorities banned the commercialisation of sharks on the island as the fish was thought to be contaminated with ciguatoxins, poisonous organic compounds that cause serious food poisoning.
Then in 2004, those who traded in shark fins — a hugely controversial delicacy in some Asian countries — were banned from fishing sharks.
Faced with the increase in the sea predators and following the deadly attacks, the prefect of the island announced a slew of measures in July, including banning swimming, surfing and bodyboarding off more than half of the coast.
He also said 90 sharks would be culled — 45 bull sharks and 45 tiger sharks — on top of the 20 already killed as part of scientific research into ciguatera, the illness caused by eating fish flesh contaminated with ciguatoxins.
But he acknowledged the cull was not only scientific but also aimed at “reducing the shark population”.
Thierry Robert, a prominent politician on the island, has called for more “preventative culls”.
But the idea has been slammed by environmentalists keen to protect sharks, some of which are seriously threatened worldwide.
Didier Derand of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, an animal rights organisation, is challenging the existing cull in court.
He is being assisted by Sea Shepherd, the international marine wildlife conservation organisation, “because we need worldwide awareness of the organised massacre of sharks.”
According to Sea Shepherd, 100 million sharks are killed each year by sport fishermen or by those who practice shark finning, which consists of catching the fish and slicing off their fins while they are still alive.
The organisation says sharks are being depleted faster than they can reproduce, threatening the stability of marine ecosystems around the world.
Authorities in the Reunion island are also looking at other ways to protect swimmers, such as using aerial balloons equipped with surveillance cameras and alert systems when they detect movement in the water.
The island’s Saint-Paul district has opted for drum lines, devices fixed with hooks that are meant to capture sharks.
Meanwhile, surfers and bodyboarders say they refuse to be sacrificed in the name of marine conservation.
“We have to stop this worldwide lobbying that advocates the protection of sharks,” says Jean-Francois Nativel, head of the Ocean Prevention Reunion association, which works on reducing the risks of shark attacks.
“We’re in the era of Flipper the shark. We have to break the taboos… We have to bring back fishing, and put the shark back in the plates of Reunion people,” he said.
But Jean-Rene Enilorac, head of the regional fishing committee, was dubious.
“Even if there is no longer a risk of ciguatera, I’m not sure the Reunion inhabitants will eat shark again,” he said.
“Who will want to eat a fish, imagining it maybe devoured a human being?”
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YOU SEE THEM ON SHARK WEEK – GET TO KNOW THEM IN PERSON
Some of the world’s top shark celebrities scientists, TV hosts, underwater photographers, filmmakers and conservationists are on the auction block at Bidding for Good during Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.
The aim of the auction is twofold: To spotlight individuals and organizations working effectively to protect sharks, and raise funds for field research and shark conservation programs.
Up for auction is lunch or dinner with a shark celebrity. Bid on Dr. Sylvia Earle, the most eloquent spokesperson for ocean conservation and Explorer in Residence of the National Geographic Society or Dr. Leonard Compagno, the top expert on sharks and author of the first-ever field guide to sharks: Sharks of the World’. How about dinner with Chris Fallows of ‘Air Jaws’ fame, dive legend Gary Gentile, or Armand “Zig” Zigahn, founder of Beneath the Sea, the largest consumer dive and travel show in the USA? Thousands of divers have learnd about sharks and the need for their conservation through Beneath the Sea!
Also being auctioned are Al Brenneka, founder of Shark Attack Survivors, Shark Year Magazine; scientists Dr. Neil Hammershlag, Dr. Gordon Hubbell and Dr. Jennifer Schmidt; underwater photographers Amos Nachoum and Paul Spielvogel; sculptor Victor Douieb; Jim Toomey, creator of the syndicated comic strip Sherman’s Lagoon; artists Richard Ellis and Pascal Lecocq; television hosts and Richard Weise host of ABC’sf Born to Explore, Jonathan and Christine Bird, and Donald Schultz; filmmakers Nancy McGee, Joe Romeiro, and Jeff Kurr; authors Paul Mila, Juliet Eilperin and Jessica Speart; and conservationists from the American Littoral Society, Mission Blue-Google Ocean, Ocean Geographic Society, Sea Save, Shark Whisperer, Sharks International, SharkProtect, Shark Research Institute and other fine organizations. These are just a few of the dozens of “shark celebs” to be auctioned. Each one of them has a wealth of expertise and stories to share with their highest bidder.
Although most of the ‘celebs’ are in the USA, some are in Australia, Europe, South Africa and Hong Kong.
How it works: Bid on a shark expert or celebrity that lives or works nearby, unless you are willing to drive or fly to their location. The winning bidder pays for the celebrity’s meal, and may bring guests. Shark Research Institute will introduce each winning bidder to his or her shark celebrity. The two then set a mutually convenient date, time and place to get together within 365 days of the close of the auction.
The auction starts August 9, 2013 at 9 pm EST and runs for 10 days. The auction catalog is on the Shark Research Institute’s home page at www.sharks.org, and will have a link to directly enter the auction as soon as the auction opens.
Shark Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Winning bids are deductible as charitable contributions from US Federal 2013 income taxes.
Shark Research Institute
PO Box 40, Princeton, NJ08540
Phone: 609.921.3522 Email: email@example.com http://www.sharks.org
Shark Attack Death Of California Navy Contractor Prompts Suspension Of Water Sports For Sailors
The July 14 shark-attack death of a California Navy contractor has prompted the Navy to suspend all water activities in the waters off Navy Support Center Facility Diego Garcia.
Diego Garcia is a coral atoll in the Indian Ocean, about 967 nautical miles south of India’s southernmost tip.
The Navy contractor has been identified as Fernando Licay, 33, a Filipino from Santa Clara, California.
Base spokesman Petty Officer 1st Class Edward Vasquez told Stars and Stripes that the shark attacked Licay in a designating swimming area roughly 25 feet from shore.
“He had extensive injuries from the attack. We are all saddened by loss of victim, and thoughts are with family and friends.”
The Philippines newspaper Sun-Star reports the attack was witnessed by several of Licay’s friends:
Licay’s companions said the shark came out of nowhere and attacked him moments after he went into the water… They saw Licay fighting for his life as his right leg was chewed by the shark. The group tried to extricate Licay from the shark’s mouth but it held on to its prey…
Licay died a few minutes after he was released by the shark due to excessive loss of blood.
Because Diego Garcia is a British Indian Ocean territory, the British government is investigating the incident alongside the U.S. Navy.
Video uploaded by CAROUPRI Rose on 15. July 2013 .
07/15/2013 – A teenage tourist ( Sarah, 15 ) was killed in a shark attack in the bay of Saint-Paul, located on the western coast of Reunion Island.
I went shark diving March 21st, 2013 for the first time in Gansbaai, South Africa with my sister Leanne Plummer and best friends Peter Lipscombe, Richard Lipscombe and Monica Kronfli .. and managed to catch this on film!!
Video uploaded by Bryan Plummer on 22. March 2013 :
A shark totally ignores the bait and goes straight for the cage!! He gets his head inside the cage, while fellow diver Roger (who got married the day before), acted quickly to swim below the gaping sharks mouth and to avoid any injury.
Apologies for any profanity in the video.. it was an out of control situation.
Shark fears bite business at dive school
One of Perth’s biggest scuba diving businesses has had to offer extraordinary discounts to lure people into the water after an unprecedented spate of shark attacks slashed its profitability.
Perth Diving Academy, which has shops in Hillarys and Balcatta and runs diving courses off Perth, said its business was so badly affected by hysteria over the attacks it was offering the “no chicken special”.
Under the deal with the advertising pitch “gutsy divers wanted”, customers are credited the $495 cost of the academy’s training course for use on later dives.
“With all the bad media about sharks, you would think the waters around Perth are shark infested, with divers being eaten every day,” the advertisement says.
“The reality is there are more sharks but the risk of a shark attack is still lower than dying from a bee sting.
“Shark hype keeps people who are chicken out of the water. We don’t want chickens, we want keen people who want to go diving.”
Simon Jones, a part owner the academy, said the five fatal shark attacks in 10 months in 2011 and 2012 undoubtedly scared people away from diving.
Mr Jones said as diving course participation fell away, turnover plummeted about 25 per cent, costing the academy hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Despite the setback, the 56-year-old said the retail offer appeared to be working and the number of people signing up to the course had returned to normal.
“I can’t counter people’s fears and all the hype,” Mr Jones said.
“All I can do is say, ‘yes, there’s a risk but it’s minuscule, come out, we’ll show you how to do it and you’ll have a fantastic time’.
“We need to get people in because we know that if we don’t get people in doing the courses, you don’t sell them the gear, you don’t get them out on the boat doing dives and all of a sudden our business, which was doing quite nicely, just dries up.
“Any diving business in Perth that tells you it hasn’t had a downturn in the past couple of years is lying to you.”
Sources: The West Australian, Perth Diving Academy Hillarys.
Daniel Mercer, The West Australian,
March 18, 2013