The Reunion Island government recently banned surfing due to a jump in shark attacks. Sticky situation. Photo: Lia Barrett

The Inertia

Reunion Island, a quaint land mass next to Madagascar in the Indian Ocean with a population of about 800,000 and covering a total of 970 square miles, has had a series of devastating shark attacks, ten to be exact, over the past two years, with three being fatal.

Many people are wondering why the attacks off of this island are so prevalent. Citizens of the island believe that it has to do with the marine reserve that was created six years ago. This reserve limited the amount of fishing that was able to take place off the island and because of this, many believe that the shark population increased.

Due to the increase in shark attacks, the government has issued a ban on surfing outside of the island lagoons starting on the 29th of July and is in effect until October 1, 2013. The government released this statement about the recent surfing ban: “An immediate prohibition of swimming, surfing and bodyboarding within the coastal strip of 300 meters from shore in the department of Reunion until October 1st, 2013. These activities are only allowed within the shallow ‘lagoon’ and supervised areas as determined by the Prefecture. Beachgoers who do not comply with the restrictions will be subject to a fine of 38 Euros ($50 U.S. dollars).”

Although it may seem like the island is attempting to help surfers by keeping them out of harm’s way, they think otherwise. Many are frustrated by the fact they need to stay in the lagoon area of the island when surfing and think it is ridiculous that if they leave the 300-meter area, they will be fined or possibly receive prison time. The surfers’ mentality of Reunion Island is that it is their choice to go out and put themselves in danger. Let them do what they love and if they do happen to be injured, then that was their choice and no one else’s. The surfers also believe that the ocean is an open territory and no one should be able to put limits on when and where surfers are not allowed to surf.

The government of Reunion Island has also set out on a scientific ciguatera program (poisoning the sharks) where they will be killing 90 sharks as part of a culling process. The government believes that by killing 45 tiger sharks and 45 bull sharks there will be fewer attacks around the island. Surfers are also skeptical about this. Many believe that killing 90 sharks will not do anything to help the overall situation of these past attacks. This isn’t the first culling of sharks to take place at Reunion Island either. Last year, after two attacks over the course of two weeks in August, the government issued a culling of 20 sharks.

The whole situation is a sticky and tricky one since the government wants to protect its people, but then again the surfers want to be in their habitat of choice and surf the phenomenal waves the island provides.

This will definitely be debated for a while within the surfing world. What is your opinion about the situation? Should surfers be able to surf wherever they want or should the government limit them within the lagoon? Do you think the culling of sharks will help the entire situation? Voice your opinion below.


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