Eight fatal shark attacks on humans have occurred since 2011, in the waters surrounding La Reunion, in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. A predictable response has been the call for culling sharks in the waters around the island. (photo – shutterstock)
However as shark scientists are quick to point out, “culling will have little chance of catching the individual shark responsible for the latest attack and there are virtually no cases of repeat or “rogue sharks” states George Burgess, from the University of Florida. Since sharks are highly migratory shark culling would be highly ineffective with new sharks quickly recolonizing an area from which they have been removed.
Human Factors Contribute to Shark Attacks
Burgess has studied the history of La Reunion and feels that changes over the last five decades including a doubling of the population, over-fishing of local waters, and a dramatic surge in tourism and surfing are the primary causes for the increase in shark encounters.
However rather than culling sharks, Burgess suggests that risk can be reduced by: avoiding locations of high shark contact; hiring shark spotters and avoiding surfing at certain high-risk times of the day. He says that “ultimately each surfer must make wise judgements about where and when to engage his or her passion.” The latest La reunion attack seems to have occurred in an area officially closed to swimmers.
Shark Attacks are Extremely Rare
And although the risk of a shark attack is extremely rare, (only four fatal attacks worldwide occurred in 2016) the reality is that when humans enter the sea we are engaging in a wilderness experience that offers inherent risk and we must be prepared to accept that risk. See George Burgess’ article in The Conversation and visit the Blue Ocean Shark-A-Thon.
Now For the Other Side of the Argument
What put the La Reunion issue on everyone’s radar was a call by Kelly Slater to cull La Reunion’s sharks. Considered to be the world’s greatest surfer, (winning the World Surf League Championship 11 times) Slater said, “Honestly, I won’t be popular for saying this but there needs to be a serious cull on Reunion and it should happen everyday. There is a clear imbalance happening in the ocean there. If the whole world had these rates of attack nobody would use the ocean and literally millions of people would be dying like this. The French govt needs to figure this out asap. 20 attacks since 2011!?”
Slater owns the sustainable clothing company Outerknown and he announced a campaign earlier this week that aims to shift perceptions of how our ocean is viewed. The campaign is called “It’s Not OK” and is a partnership with the Ocean Conservancy giving 100% of the “It’s Not OK” t-shirt profits to ocean causes. So it seems Slater is an ocean conservationist that has an opinion that conflicts with most conservationists. We’ll report more on this as it crosses our desk.
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Plus read all of our related Blue Ocean posts on Sharks:
For everything current on whales see our post: A Whale of a Tale. And for the latest on the strange, and wonderful new marine creatures discovered in the deep ocean see: Awesome and a Bit Bizarre Marine Life Discoveries.