Saturday, February 25, 2017

Do we need a shark cull at Reunion Island?

After a recent deadly shark attack at Reunion Island, world renowned surfer and conservationist Kelly Slater has called for a serious daily shark cull.

Grind TV writes "After the 20th shark attack off Reunion Island since 2011 occurred earlier this week, the world’s greatest surfer made a comment that “there needs to be a serious cull on Reunion and it should happen everyday.”

The attack happened at a spot that is well known for it's sharks and there are signs warning people that it is closed for waters ports. Unfortunately those sign were cut down the weekend before, but the local fishermen reported that they warned the body-boarders.

Sky news writes: "It is reported young people had been there for several days, despite being warned by locals of a shark."
Kelly Slater's response to this attack is this. 

“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!?”

First off, I want to extend my condolences to the friends and family of the victim. This is truly a tragedy and the fact that I don't blame the sharks is not diminishing that fact.

I think Kelly Slater is one of the good guys and I admire a lot of the things he does. In this case, I have to respectfully disagree with his stance. By all accounts, this location is well known for it's shark population and the associated danger to water sports enthusiasts. The surfers and body- boarders were warned that those areas are closed to water sports and they still decided to go into the water.

There are tons of places, all around the world, where it is safe to go into the ocean, so why would you want to kill the sharks that seem to aggregate in this area, so you can have another spot? There are relatively few and well known areas, where sharks are found in larger numbers. Why go surfing there? Calling for a shark cull, because someone ignored all the warnings is not the way to protect the oceans. Are we calling for the top of Mt. Everest to be cut down, because people die of hypoxia there? There are always people that want to take risk. Don't blame the sharks when things go wrong.

Also I want to put things in perspective. There have been 20 shark bites since 2011, 8 of them fatal. That amounts to about 3 bites and a little more than one fatality per year. While each death is tragic, there are a lot of other things that are far more dangerous without anyone doing anything to mitigate the danger.

Kelly, I hope that you change your mind on this. A lot of people listen to you and respect your opinion. It's not just about Reunion Island. If people think that shark culls are a good option, there will be calls for those in a lot of other places. I would like to invite you to be my guest and come out with us to experience what these sharks are like when you come face to face with them. Maybe that will change your mind.

Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver.
About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at


Unknown said...

The west coast of Réunion island has been the hotbed for surfing for over 30 years, before some dumbass decided to set up a protected marine area right in the middle of that seaside resort.
Right about the same time, the government decided to forbid the consumption of shark’s meat (which was traditionally & sustainably fished until then) because of some dubious case of food poisoning in Madagascar (some 430 mile away !!!).
Both of those factors, combined with a suitable biotope/topography has led to the proliferation of bull sharks.
Because of this, there has been 20 attacks, 8 fatalities, 4 casualties with amputated limbs, and countless close calls since 2011…
All this has happened on a coats barely 15 km long, with less than 200 peoples in the water (the last hardcore surfers, who just can’t give up their passion).
Since 2015, the island has seen 50% of the planet's fatal shark attacks, while it is home to only 0.012% of the world's population and accounts for only 0.0017% of its emerged land…
Furthermore, you asking “why surfing there?” is completely ludicrous!!
What would you do if you were living on a tropical island where the WHOLE Ocean around it has been TOTALLY banned because of life threatening predators prowling it?
Lastly, I will not dwell on your analogy between shark attacks & mountain accidents as it’s senseless & irrelevant…
Seems you should do like Kelly Slater, and get informed about the SPECIFICS of the situation in Réunion Island instead of dishing out clichés & nonsense.

Shark Diver said...

Since you start out by calling the person who created the marine protected area a dumbass, I think I know where you're coming from.

You say that I should get informed instead of dishing out nonsense. Well, as you just informed me, there are only about 200 people who go into the water. Many of those are not natives, but come from elsewhere to surf there. You are not telling me anything new. so basically you're saying that those 200 people's desire to surf there outweighs the environmental impact a shark cull would have. I respectfully disagree.

Unknown said...

It has been a hot spot for surfers for 30 years? It has been a home to sharks for 450 million years. Personally, I'd choose the animals right to live over ocean recreation. Can't people find somewhere else to surf if they think Reunion Island is too dangerous. People have a choice on where they surf...a shark does not have that luxury, the ocean is their home anyways.