Starting as early as next week, the government will provide financial incentives for fishermen to hunt bull sharks–listed as near threatened by the IUCN–off the coast of the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion.
While some residents and fishermen are looking forward to this, animal rights groups are calling it a legalized extermination.
From 2000 to 2010 there were no shark attacks off Reunion, but in the last two years, there has been a dramatic increase of shark incidents. Just last week, a 22-year-old surfer died after a shark bit off his leg. This was the seventh attack and third fatality since the beginning of 2011.
While shark fishing is legal in most areas around the island, fishermen typically don’t hunt bull sharks because their flesh is toxic and cannot be consumed.
“The government is in favor of an extermination, pure and simple,” said Christophe Marie, a spokesman for the Brigitte Bardot Foundation. “The sea belongs first to marine life. We can’t condemn sharks to death just to please surfers. It’s ridiculous.”
Activists are suggesting other measures to lower shark encounters, such as limiting the waste disposal along the coast.
“It’s understandable that people – and politicians – want a quick solution if there have been fatalities, like in Reunion. But it doesn’t exist,” said Christopher Neff, a shark attack researcher at the University of Sydney. “If the sharks migrate that way, then a cull won’t stop that.”
Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC.