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Man-eating sharks given reprieve in French Reunion Island

Reuters/Francisco Bonilla

A growing number of shark attacks in the waters off Reunion Island, the French department in the Indian Ocean, have prompted the government to consider allowing fishermen to go after sharks.

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Last week a 22-year-old surfer died after a bull shark bit off his leg. It is the seventh shark attack since January 2011 and the third fatality this year.

The attack provoked a protest by 300 surfers who demonstrated outside the town hall demanding that sharks be fished.

Thierry Robert MP, mayor of St Leu commune, reacted by offering to pay fishermen to catch bull sharks.

But the French minister for Overseas Territories, Victorin Lurel, later revoked the decision, saying that the species are protected and so killing them would be breaking French law.

Environmental groups would like to see more research commissioned by the authorities into why the bull sharks have turned on people.

Lamya Essemlali, of the ocean conservation group Sea Shepherd France, told RFI “the government should focus more on finding out why the sharks are attacking in the first place.”

Bull sharks live in shallow warm waters and are responsible for the majority of shark attacks on humans.

Environmentalists argue that bull sharks are a critical element of the marine ecosystem.

“By killing them, the whole ecosystem is then impoverished,” concluded Essemlali.

For more recent developments see Shark bites off surfer's hand and foot in Réunion island's third attack

and Réunion island officials order shark fishing after eighth attack

 

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