Requiem for the sharks of La Reunion Island ?
By Lamya Essemlali President Sea Shepherd France
Sea Shepherd France acknowledges the recent administrative court's order that states the Prefecture of La Reunion “has the obligation to find a solution to the shark issue in La Reunion”. Among the possible solution “a massive cull of sharks, including within the Marine Reserve is not excluded”. We are now waiting for the prefecture's answer. Until then, we have to recall a few points of an economic and ecosystem reality that remains inaudible amongst the ambient confusion but whose disputation is a denial of reality.
To solve the crisis currently hitting the Reunion Island it takes radical solutions. The word radical comes from the latin language and it means "going back to the roots". We therefore have to strike the problem at its roots instead of only tackling the symptoms which are the accidents with sharks.
Up to now, the authorities have only been capable of proposing placebo solutions by tackling the symptoms. Most of the accidents that have taken place could have been avoided. The last one being particularly questionable. How is it possible that a place like the St Paul bay, known for being dangerous, was not clearly indicated ? Particularly in the Reunion Island context. This is clearly a grave failure to prevent accidents.
For sharks beats to have an impact, it will take a systematic extermination of ALL the sharks approaching the coasts, The Reunion being an island open on the ocean this means putting up an extermination plan for these predators which global populations are dropping sharply. These fishing campaigns already take place, supervised by the State or in a private context, and they require a huge profusion of resources like hydraulic longliners with hundreds of hooks which is forbidden for near coast commercial fishing! One also has to take into account all the other species which will be caught and that will without doubt be far more numerous than the sharks killed. It has to be noticed that a total opacity reigns when it comes to this issue, apart from the guitarfish (endangered and harmless species) massacred during the last campaign, no information whatsoever is made public or available.
Indeed, fishing a few individuals (by the way, what are the numbers we are talking about ? 10, 20, 100, 300 ???) will be completely useless and could create a dangerous security illusion damaging even more the island's image. Besides, Sea Shepherd demands that those who recommend this solution, propagating a psychosis, communicate on the threshold of shark deaths useful to their “security”. It is highly important that the authorities listen to the wise recommendations of the scientists who repeat again and again that those fishing campaigns only have a psychological function. The only effect is to cool some overheated spirits by giving them an immediate response. But at what price does this haggling for social peace come?
Not only giving out these animals to popular anger is ethically problematic but above all it sends out a worrying message in a rule-of-law: those who shout the loudest, insult and defame NGOs, scientists and elected representatives end up by winning their case upon the State. Is this the message the authorities want to send out?
Finally, will the Reunion island become the island where the sharks, natural predators of the oceans, are exterminated for the sake of nautical leisures? Is this the image the island wands to show out to the world in a global context where environmental consciousness is becoming an evermore important standard for tourist destinations?