France - Réunion

Shark bites off surfer's hand and foot in Réunion island's third attack this year

Reuters/Andrea Comas

A shark bit off a surfer’s hand and foot on the west coast of Réunion on Sunday, according to witnesses. It was the eighth shark attack in 20 months off the French Indian Ocean island and the third this year.


Despite his ordeal, the surfer, who is in his 40s but whose name has not been made public, managed to swim to the beach where rescuers took care of him.

There were 807 shark attacks in the world between 200 and 2011, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File. The US state of Florida had the most at 281.

The site issues advice to swimmers and surfers, including not entering the water when bleeding, not wearing bright colours, especially “yum-yum yellow” and staying in groups.

Officials confirmed that he had suffered “serious injuries to his right foot and hand” but said that his life was not in danger.

The incident took place an hour and a half before sunset.

Experts advise against swimming in shark-infested waters at dawn and sunset when many sharks feed.

Sharks are not generally keen on eating humans, preferring less bony food, such as fish or seals, and most attacks appear to be mistakes.

But Réunion has experienced eight in the last 20 months, three of them fatal, and three attacks this year.

The last death was on 23 July when a shark bit off the leg of a 22-year-old surfer.

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The mayor of the Réunion town of Saint Leu, Thierry Robert, who is also an MP, described the latest attack as “predictable”, pointing out that “once again” it took place in a marine nature reserve set up five years ago to safeguard coral reefs.

The reserve’s critics claim it is a “larder” for sharks, an accusation that its supporters deny, while environmentalists say that sharks have been attracted nearer to land by the dumping of human waste in the sea.

Last week Robert authorised shark fishing before withdrawing the decree because of a government promise that the state would move sharks from the area.

In a statement following Sunday's attack, he called on the government to take "the necessary measures to guarantee the safety of people using the reserve" and the surrounding area, "given that it considers itself the only competent authority" to do so.

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