A 26-year-old man who was bodyboarding at the mouth of the Mat River on the northeast coast of Réunion Island has been killed by a shark.
The man is thought to have ignored warnings from local fishermen about the presence of sharks in the area and was hit in stretch of coast where water activities are banned. Signs along the beach warning of shark activity in the water had reportedly been vandalized.
The victim has been named as local bodyboarder Alexandre Naussance. He was reportedly employed at one time as a shark spotter on the island in an attempt to prevent attacks.
“This accident happened even though swimming and other water sports are forbidden in this area,” said the authorities in a statement released to the public.
His death is reported to have been witnessed by swimmers and fishermen. Naussance was pulled from the water where it was discovered that the shark had severed a major artery. He was pronounced dead on the beach.
This attack once again mars Réunion Island with the unwanted reputation as the shark attack capital of the world. There have been 20 separate incidents involving sharks since 2011, including eight fatalities.
The shark problem facing the small island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, has been significant. After a spate of attacks from 2011-2013, all recreational water use including swimming and surfing was officially banned by the French government. For the past six years, sharks surrounding Réunion have effectively kept its wave riding community under siege.
In February 2016, after government investment in a range of largely unproven shark prevention measures, the controversial ban was eventually lifted.
WCT surfer and Réunion Island native Jeremy Flores, who has lost friends to shark attacks, has been vocal in his support of attempts to solve the shark crisis. Alongside his father (who is a local mayor), he has recently helped to initiate a Shark Risk Reduction Program on the island. This has seen the implementation of drum lines, nets, shark spotters, no-go zones, and even special “shark vigilantes” (divers armed with spear guns).
Flores posted a tribute to the latest victim a few hours ago: “Another young, passionate kid gone too soon, very sad… Make sure you score some perfect barrels up there with all the legends.”
Local authorities are urging people to observe bans that remain in place restricting water use along certain areas of the coastline.