A real-life “JAWS” story is unfolding on a tropical paradise off the coast of Africa. Reunion Island has long been a surf destination for its warm climate and great waves, especially the long wrapping lefts of St. Leu, where in 2005 Rip Curl held their inaugural Search Event, won by Mick Fanning.
Like many tropical surf meccas, Reunion has always had its share of shark tales, but nothing that would turn tourists away from its idyllic beaches and reefs.
At this point it’s unclear what is to blame, but in the past two years there have been a record number of shark attacks, eight, with three fatalities in the past year alone. The latest attack came over the weekend, when an unidentified man in his 40s was bitten on the hand and foot while surfing the famous left at St. Leu. This comes just two weeks after a fatal attack where 22-year-old surfer Alexandre Rassica had his leg bitten off.
After that fatal incident, pressure on the mayor of the island to take action prompted a proposed shark-hunt in the protected marine preserve, at which point the French government stepped in before the hooks were dropped to avoid any environmental backlash. French Oversees Minister Victor Lurel vowed that France would take care of the problem. After news of this latest attack, mayor Thierry Robert was quoted on local radio station Antenne Reunion: “It was foreseeable; I have been asking for action for several weeks. Once again this has happened in the marine reserve. People need to take responsibility.” As of now, shark fishing on the island remains illegal.
In this part of the Indian Ocean both tiger and bull sharks are somewhat common, but researchers have suggested that a possible boom in the bull shark population has led to the string of attacks.
Kelly Slater shared local hero and WT surfer Jeremy Flores’ shock at the situation via twitter.
The two videos below will give you an idea why surfers are willing to surf in these sharky waters.