Within the span of a week, two surfers have been attacked by sharks near Reunion Island, a French island in the Indian Ocean.
Located east of Madagascar, off the coast of Mozambique, the island boasts a number of surfing hot spots, the waters of which have also become home to a burgeoning population of tiger and bull sharks.
One of the shark attacks, occurring on Sunday, left a surfer without a hand and a foot, but he survived. The other surfer, however, died from shark-attack injuries last Monday.
These attacks spurred a demonstration of 300 locals and surfers before Reunion Island’s central police station. The protesters demanded that the sharks be culled.
While it is legal to hunt these sharks, fishermen abstain from doing so because their meat is toxic for human consumption.
The protesters say that lack of hunting has lead to the increase in population and, consequently, attacks.
While a full scale hunt is not underway, France will hire professional fishermen to kill 20 sharks near Reunion this week, ten of each species. The official reasoning behind this hunt, according to French overseas minister Victorin Lurel, is to help understand why the shark attacks have increased.
The hunt is also to see whether the shark meat is truly toxic.
Environmentalists say that is is well documented that the meat is toxic and that the hunt is nothing less than a French-sanctioned cull masquerading under the umbrella of scientific research. (See interviews in Deutsche Welle)
Meanwhile, the Reunion Island shark attacks have found themselves at the center of attention in the surfing community, because they beg a tough question: is it right for the government to kill sharks in order to protect recreational surfers?
Pro surfer Jeremy Flores, who grew up surfing in Reunion Island and knew the victims well, weighed in on the debate in an interview with TransWorld SURF Magazine.
“Who speaks about hunting or killing all the sharks? We are speaking about a regulation of a species that begins to eat all other species and also humans.”
View his full interview for more details on the Reunion hunt here.