There was another serious shark attack on a bodyboarder in Reunion on Saturday afternoon. He was bitten whilst surfing a reef at Etang Sale, which is just south of St Leu, the islands premier wave.
Reports indicate that his leg was severed off at the thigh during the attack.
This brings the total of shark attacks in Reunion this year to three. The last attack was on July 15, when a young girl was killed at Saint-Paul (just north of St Leu) while she was bathing a few meters offshore. In May, a French honeymooner was killed by a shark while surfing not far from the island's popular beach of Brisants de Saint-Gilles (also just north of St Leu).
This brings the total number of attacks since 2010 to 14. Yip, that's 14 incidents in the space of 3 years. Of these 6 were fatal.
The majority of attacks have occurred on the NW and west side of the island - where the islands only fish farm is located. Many of the locals point the finger at the fish farm in St Paul Bay, which was built in 2007 (consisting of 7 cages), as one of the reasons for the sudden spike in attacks.
Reunion has experienced shark attacks before, but generally only 1 or 2 a year, with many years of no attacks. However since 2010 there has been 14 attacks, of which 6 have been fatal.
It's not as simple as going 1+1 = 2, and blaming the fish farm for the increase in attacks, but yoh, it's an unnerving coincidence if nothing else.
Other possible contributing factors include the recent creation of the Marine Reserve (also 2007), a twelve-mile-long protected zone established on the west coast to try to save the threatened coral of the barrier reef. Fishing is either banned or strictly regulated in this area - so locals believe it's become a "pantry" for sharks, as there are plentiful fish for them to eat.
Another factor could be the 1999 ban on the commercialisation of sharks on the island as they were thought to be contaminated with ciguatuerra, a poisonous toxin that causes serious food poisoning. This meant sharks could no longer be sold on Reunion as food. That meant the local shark fishing industry disappeared almost overnight - you couldn't catch it to sell, as you weren't allowed to sell it, and no-one wanted to eat it anyway.
So are the attacks all because of this cascade of coincidences?
A whole lot more sharks because of the ban on shark fishing in the entire island, and then the draw of this increased shark population to the NW of the island due to a combination of the fish farm, marine protected area and increased wastewater run-off into the sea from the expanding urbanised zones nearby creating an ideal feeding environment?
It's impossible to point a finger at a specific cause, and most likely it's a combination of all of the above. Plus a whole bunch of other things we probably haven't even considered.
Either way - it's gotto be really, really tough right now to be a surfer in Reunion. Watching pumping waves go unridden due to the current ban on surfing in the area. Do you roll the dice, ignore the ban, and take your chances?
Is that wave worth your life?
But then again, is it a life worth living if you stop surfing?