For the twenty-fourth time since 2011, a person was attacked by a shark off Réunion Island Thursday. It’s the eleventh fatal attack in that same span. By comparison, there were 22 attacks off Réunion between 1971 and 2010.
The man’s identity hasn’t been released yet, but reports say he was in his late twenties and surfing in an area near Saint Leu that is restricted because of the risk of shark attacks. While local government has made efforts to protect people by placing nets in certain areas surrounding the island, Saint Leu is actually an unprotected spot. And since the waves are better and crowds are smaller there, surfers still come to the restricted area.
The attack happened at 4:30 p.m. local time when a witness realized the person had disappeared from the water and his board was floating nearby. Rescue officials were alerted and told French press that when they later found the man’s body he had lost a leg and was pronounced dead.
The “surfer was accompanied by three friends who tried to take him back to land but did not manage,” said Olivier Tainturier, a senior local official in the nearby town of Saint-Paul.
“It’s one of the best waves on the island — one of the best left-breaking waves on the island,” professional bodyboarder Yves De Lapelin said about Saint Leu in a 2016 documentary.”But there’s no anti-shark net here. It’s a paradise but on the other hand, you have to be vigilant. Very vigilant.”
“You can’t keep someone from going in the water,” he added. “If they want to go in, they’ll go in.”
The spike in attacks this decade has sparked debates around the island about how local government should protect its beaches from attacks, with some pointing out that protective nets in certain areas haven’t brought surfing back to Réunion because plenty of people still look for waves in unrpotected waters.