Reunion Shark Controversy

The second shark attack in two weeks sparks decision to cull sharks in protected area

Friends, family, and fellow surfers gather at a memorial for Alexander Rassiga, who was killed by a shark in Reunion just a week ago. Photo: Blivet

Two days ago, an unidentified man in his 40s became the second shark attack victim on Reunion Island in two weeks. According to reports, the man's hand and foot were severed while he was surfing in a marine reserve near St. Leu on Sunday. The man was able to make his way to shore on his own and is expected to survive his injuries.

Over the course of the past 13 months, three surfers have been killed by sharks on the island. The news of the latest attack has reignited a debate on the island surrounding a proposal to pay local fisherman to kill sharks in the marine reserve.

The marine reserve on the island was put in place five years ago to protect the coral reefs that surround the popular tourist destination.

Following the attack last week that claimed the life of 22-year-old surfer Alexandre Rassica, the mayor of St. Leu, Thierry Robert, authorized local fishermen to hunt sharks in the marine reserve. However, the announcement drew a wave of criticism from around the world and resulted in Mayor Robert withdrawing the decision, stating that he would turn the problem over to the French. But following today's attack, in an interview with radio station Antenn Reunion, Mayor Robert alluded that he would open up the marine reserve to shark culling.

“[The attack] was foreseeable,” he told the radio station. “I have been asking for action for several weeks. Once again this has happened in the marine reserve. People need to take responsibility.” He was cited as saying that the St. Leu Town Hall would go on to take immediate action.

In the aftermath of the most recent attack, it’s been reported that 300 surfers demonstrated in front of the local police station on the island, demanding that the shark population be thinned in the area.

Additionally, Reuters recently released a story confirming that local fishermen will indeed be hired to cull an estimated 20 sharks in the reserve.

What’s your take? Should the local government begin hunting sharks? Leave your opinion in the comments section below.

Mourning Alexander Rassiga. Photo: Blivet
Reunion Island surfers and ocean goers gather to demand that something be done about the recent shark attacks. Photo: Blivet
A Reunion Island local shows solidarity with the area's fallen surfers. Photo: Blivet