A dorsal fin breaks the surface

Article: GQ on bull sharks at Réunion Island

Nowhere has the fraught and complex relationship between surfers and sharks played out with as much drama as at Réunion Island, a department of France situated in the Indian Ocean off Madagascar. A surfers’ paradise, the island has seen a succession of gruesome attacks by bull sharks on surfers. A decision was made in August 2012 to cull sharks around the island, which was almost immediately reversed as it contravened French law (the sharks are in a Marine Protected Area, where hunting is forbidden).

An article at GQ.com describes the attacks and the community response, and attempts to understand the reason behind the sudden increase in human-shark interactions. It is interesting, as someone outside surfing culture, to get an insight into the impact of these events on the local surfing community. One can sense the frustration and bewilderment of the surfers, particularly because the explanations for increased shark sightings and bites on humans are hard to grasp.

Frédéric Buyle, a Belgian free diver and shark conservationist, even went so far as to theorise that

… bull sharks’ social units are complex enough that the loss of a single individual could send a group into a tailspin of erratic behavior. It’s also possible, Buyle posits, that if an influential individual were to be injured, the others might help it hunt for easy prey—and nothing could be easier prey than an oblivious land mammal on the surface. It’s a leap of imagination to see the tragedy of the attacks in reverse perspective: a beloved bull (do they love one another?), suddenly wrenched from the water, vanishing into the sky; the grieving survivors (do they grieve for one another?) rallying together, making a necessary change.

It’s important to remember that Buyle isn’t a scientist; he has, however, been passionately involved in the events at Réunion, and writes more about them here (in French – use Google translate).

Christopher Neff writes at Save Our Seas and for The Conversation on the emotive issue of shark hunts and culls. While they satisfy our desire for vengeance on the animal or animals that may have bitten water users, there is no scientific evidence that they work. This excellent article on tiger sharks off Hawaii highlights the same point.

Read the full article here.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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