On October 27th, 2013, at Étang-Salé beach just south of Saint Leu on Reunion Island a 24-year-old bodyboarder was attacked by a shark only 20 yards from shore. His leg was completely severed at the thigh. He is reported to be in the hospital in critical conditions at this time.
Reunion Island has been the scene of a major shark controversy this summer. There have been 12 shark attacks on humans in the waters surrounding reunion island since 2011*. Five of these shark attacks were fatal.
*List & description of all shark attacks at Reunion Island on record: Reunion Shark Attack Records
This past July, Reunion Island banned surfing for 4 months following a string of fatal shark attacks. They also killed 45 tiger sharks and 45 bull sharks. The idea was to lower the number of sharks, thereby making the waters safer for swimmers and surfers. The surfing ban was just lifted on October 1st, 2013 and this latest shark attack occurred on October 27th, 2013. The plan used, clearly didn’t work.
This past summer’s surfing ban was laughed at by surfers upon its inception.
“I think it’s stupid. I’m shocked they banned surfing in the area…if I want to surf, I will.” – local Damien Ferrere told Surfer Magazine
Yet, the ban worked. Fear of the big fine (and likely sharks themselves) kept surfers out of the water during the ban.
Most of the Reunion Island shark attacks have been on surfers but there have been fatal attacks on swimmers as well.
Why are the sharks more aggressive of late at Reunion Island? There are a few theories. One surrounds a ban on fishing in a newly created marine preserve. As that ecosystem begins to support more fish, it attracts more sharks. Another claim is that increased amounts of waste water being put into the ocean is attracting the sharks.
Right now, there is no solid answer to what Reunion Island can do to stop its recent plague of shark attacks. Tourism is down, surfing is losing popularity, and Reunion’s most marketable feature, the ocean, is now being considered deadly.