Target: French Overseas Minister Victorin Lurel
Goal: Find alternatives to understanding shark attacks instead of killing sharks in the Indian Ocean
Shark attacks have increased at an alarming rate off of Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. Reunion Island is a small French-administered territory near Madagascar, and is a surfing hotspot. However, the rise in shark attacks, and resulting fatalities, have caused an uproar on the island. There was so much concern that the mayor called for a shark cull last week. Mayor Thierry Robert said a cull would safeguard the people; however, it also meant that bull sharks would be hunted by any means possible, and payouts would be made to those who brought in sharks greater than five feet.
The cull of sharks as a means to stop the attacks was supported by the public, but understandably condemned by animal rights groups. Before the cull could begin, the French government stepped in to stop it because French law prohibits fishing or hunting in marine-protected areas. However, the sharks are not out of danger yet. France has decided to hire fishermen to kill at least 20 sharks off of Reunion Island in an attempt to understand the reasons for the recent attacks. There could be a multitude of reasons for an increase in shark activity in a particular area. While the attacks are tragic, killing sharks without researching the situation is not the answer.
There is no doubt that a sudden increase in shark activity has occurred off of Reunion Island recently. Between 2000 and 2010 there were nine attacks and one fatality. There have been seven attacks and three fatalities since 2011. Traditionally, bull sharks in the Indian Ocean are not hunted because of a toxin they carry in their flesh, making them unsuitable for consumption. Some think this has led to their increased numbers and subsequent attacks. If one looks at the situation in perspective, sharks are much less dangerous to humans than we are to them. Approximately 73 million sharks are killed each year, but only a small number of fatal attacks on humans occur.
Fatal shark attacks are an unlikely but unfortunate reality. Because attacks are on the rise near Reunion Island, officials and scientists should be working together to understand this phenomena. Changes in the ecosystem affecting food supply, degradation of other habitats forcing the sharks elsewhere, and dumping of marine waste in the area ameliorating the food content of the water could all be possibilities that should be further researched before killing is undertaken.
Killing is rarely the answer in any situation. Please ask the French government to research the increase in shark attacks off of Reunion Island before killing sharks by signing this petition.
Dear Mr. Lurel,
Although there has been an alarming increase in shark activity and subsequent attacks off of Reunion Island, the decision to hunt and kill at least 20 sharks is not the immediate answer. Thankfully, your response to the initial cull that was planned by the mayor in Reunion ended a mass hunting of bull and tiger sharks. However, hiring fishermen to do nearly the same thing is not an attempt to understand why the sharks are there in the first place. If there is no scientific inquiry, the sharks will likely return and attacks will continue.
Undoubtedly, shark attacks in this part of the Indian Ocean have risen, with as many in the last year and a half as there have been in the ten years prior to that. Therefore, officials and scientists should be working together to understand this phenomena. Changes in the ecosystem affecting food supply, degradation of other habitats forcing the sharks elsewhere, and dumping of marine waste in the area ameliorating the food content of the water could all be possibilities that should be further researched before killing is undertaken.
Killing sharks without first understanding the circumstances will not effectively stop shark attacks. Please investigate the increase in shark attacks off of Reunion Island before blindly killing sharks.
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