Follow the WA shark cull debate with the SBS story stream
The shark cull in Western Australia is now in its fourth month and continues to provoke strong opposition from environmentalists but a similar cull on the other side of the Indian Ocean is attracting wide public support.
On tonight’s Dateline, David O’Shea reports from the French territory of La Réunion, which has seen 13 shark attacks, five of them fatal, in the past three years.
The small island east of Africa now ranks in the top four locations in the world for shark fatalities and – unlike in WA – many there want action to protect people, not sharks.
“I don’t want to go around killing any animals but there is a certain time that it has to be done,” says Australian surfer Mick Aspery, who’s lived on La Réunion for 30 years.
He believes it’s the best way to restore public confidence on the tiny island, where proportionally there are far more attacks than in Australia.
“There’s not that many people out there in a very small area and they’re getting taken, and if anything like that happened anywhere in the world, they’d be killing all the damned sharks,” he says.
As well as announcing a cull of 90 sharks, the French Government has banned swimming and surfing on most of the island.
It’s been a controversial move on an island so reliant on tourism, where visitors are already being put off by the attacks.
“I’ve lost many friends in 18 months,” says surf lifesaver Vincent Rzepecki. “And now I’ve lost the ocean as well.”
He was on duty when Mathieu Schiller was fatally attacked by two sharks in front of tourists and locals on the main holiday beach.
“It was after the attack on Mathieu that we realised something wasn’t right. Whereas we’d had no attacks before, we were now faced with a massacre,” he says.
Bull sharks are responsible for most of the attacks, with commercial fishermen now tasked with catching and killing them.
“You have to do something. If you don’t do anything with this shark, especially bull shark, they don’t stop them,” one of those fishermen, Christophe Perry, tells David.
“You’ve got to really find the solution to find the balance between protecting of the environment and animals and human activity.”
The shark cull will continue at least until a review of the move in June.