There's been eight attacks by sharks on surfers in the last 20 months in the waters off Réunion Island, a French-administered territory near Madagascar. The more frequent incidences, including deaths of surfers, have local people freaked out. So freaked out that the mayor ordered a shark cull last week, only to have to back down because it goes against French conservation law.
The Guardian reported, "On Monday 30 July, Thierry Robert MP, mayor of St Leu commune near Trois-Bassins, where a bull shark was believed to have been responsible for the death of a surfer last week, made the decision to 'act to safeguard the security of goods and people of his town' by authorising fishing of the bull shark 'by any means, including spearfishing, day and night'. He said the town would buy bull sharks of more that five feet caught by all fishermen or hunters, and pay €2 per kilo of live weight for the first 30 sharks bought to the marina."
However, the call to gather up pitchforks and torches -- and fishing rods -- was rescinded, based on the fact that "French legislation prohibits fishing or hunting "by any means," in marine protected areas."
But today, Reuters reports a new route is being taken to rid the waters of bull sharks.
"France will hire professional fishermen to kill some 20 sharks off the Indian Ocean island of Reunion this week in an effort to understand the reasons for a series of attacks in the surfing hotspot."
What, what? Read that again.
They're going to kill sharks to understand why there have been attacks on surfers in a surfing hotspot?
I have five words: You're In The Damn Ocean!
The ocean is shark turf. You enter their waters looking like food, and you think you can get mad at them for partaking in a taste test? You think you can fish sharks out of the water to make it "safer" for you to surf?
That is the most busted up logic I've heard all week.
According to Reuters, while France's overseas minister said no to a full-on cull (for now), they said "scientific studies must be conducted before hunting is allowed, to try to understand the source of a toxin in the sharks' flesh which leads to severe food poisoning. Hunting bull sharks - known to attack humans - and tiger sharks is allowed in Reunion, but fishermen have avoided them because of the toxin, and locals say this is why they have flourished."
Oooooh, so they've flourished because we aren't killing them. So now they are looking at all the surfers in the water as possible food. So we should go back to killing them again, so we can joyride on waves?
Busted. Up. Logic.
Let's return to something a little more sensible. From the Guardian, "Conservationists estimate that up to 73 million sharks are killed each year. "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," said [Allison Perry, shark expert and marine scientist for Oceana Europe].
Luckily, other measures for safety are also underway, including a map of reported sightings, and tagging 80 sharks for monitoring, 20 of which have been tagged so far.
(And as a side note, it's going to be some sad irony if the toxin built up in the shark skin that causes food poisoning is sourced back some gross chemical we've polluted the ocean with...).