Following fatal attacks Reunion Island announces shark attack initiatives
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 29 April, 2015 - Reunion Island - Following a string of shark attacks—including one tragically fatal attack on 13-year-old Elio Canestri, an up-and-coming surf star last week—the Reunion Island Tourism board has announced a handful of initiatives meant to curb shark attacks in the area.
Eight initiatives to accelerate and expand the implementation of a shark-risk reduction plan on Reunion Island were recently suggested to address the situation in the French region of the Indian Ocean. Aware of the importance and urgency of a comprehensive action, the Minister for Overseas Regions, Mr. George Pau-Langevin, announced last Friday that these initiatives of the shark-risk reduction plan July 2013 have involved the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy; the Ministry of Education, Higher Education and Research; the Department of the City, Youth and Sports; and the Ministry for Overseas Regions; as well as local authorities, associations, and marine experts.
Following a meeting held in St. Paul with the various local stakeholders and partners in the shark-risk reduction policy, the Minister first indicated that the budget for actions financed by the state as part of the shark plan will be increased from €650,000 to €1 million or € 6 million over the period 2015-2020.
The Minister then detailed the eight initiatives that will be implemented with these additional resources:
1) An increased effort to secure beaches designated for swimming and water sports activities
Alongside the region, which has announced plans to mobilize European funds, the state will financially accompany municipalities in their investments such as reinforced shark lookouts, safety nets, or other techniques if their effectiveness is demonstrated. The objective is to establish as quickly as possible and in any event this year, a secure site in St. Paul, and accelerate the implementation of projects of Saint-Pierre, Saint-Leu, and Three-Bassins.
2) A controlled increase in fishing of tiger sharks
The state is undertaking to increase by 50% sea trips in a targeted program of fishing performed by professionals. This fishing activity will be authorized by the prefect within the Marine Nature Reserve. However, it does not amount in any way to the eradication of the sharks which would be contrary to the commitments of France in favor of biodiversity.
3) The search for durable solutions to market caught sharks
The increase in tiger shark samples will help in the analysis to ANSES (National Health Security Agency for Food, Environmental and labor) and can provide the necessary elements to conclude, as soon as possible, the possibility of human consumption of shark meat. For now, the ban on human consumption must remain until the health risk is lifted.
4) The preservation of the fragile balance within the Marine Reserve
The Marine Nature Reserve, which after three decades of warnings on the degradation of Reunion Islalnd’s reef, will in no case be affected or questioned. Selective fishing programs will be extended into the marine nature reserve, but the state will remain firm on the conditions for exercising recreational fishing underwater that will not be extended.
5) Increased scientific knowledge of efforts
The state will increase its support to knowledge of programs and scientific expertise, notably to extend the listening stations network and better monitoring of shark movements and to better assess the shark population on the outskirts of Reunion Island.
6) Increased support to prevention associations
Increased financial support will be provided to organizations whose initiatives contribute to the overall response for prevention and risk reduction, such as, for example, support for the tasks of monitoring and attack prevention by various associations and stakeholders.
7) Accelerating the development of resources and a support center
This resource and support center, whose mission will be to coordinate the policy of reducing shark risk, communicates towards the public and for the management of crisis, and will become operational this year. Synergies between this structure and the Marine Nature Reserve will be sought to promote a comprehensive approach.
8) The revival of tourism on Reunion Island
The request for support of Reunion Island Tourism professionals was taken into account. At the next meeting of the Tourism Promotion Council dedicated to Overseas Regions, the Minister of Overseas, George Pau-Langevin, will co-chair a meeting in June with Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to include measures to ensure enhanced promotion of the destination.