U.S. champion surfer Kelly Slater has called on the French government to cull the population of sharks crowding the seas off Reunion island in the wake of the death of a boogie-boarder. 26-year-old Alexandre Naussac was killed last week in the 20th shark attack since 2011 off the French island in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar. Eight of the attacks have been fatal.
Surfing competitions only returned to the Reunion last year after a five-year absence triggered by a shark attack on local surf champion Eric Dargent. The area is known for world-class surfing waves but also as one of the globe’s deadliest spots for shark attacks. All of the island beaches but two are off limits to swimmers and surfers. The remaining two are protected by shark nets.
Signs warning of shark attacks at the beach where Naussac entered the water had all been vandalized, so he may have had no idea what dangers he faced.
Naussac bled to death when an attacking shark severed his femoral artery, according to reports.
“Honestly, I won’t be popular for saying this but there needs to be a serious cull on Reunion and it should happen everyday,” Slater wrote on Instagram. “There is a clear imbalance happening in the ocean there. If the whole world had these rates of attack nobody would use the ocean and literally millions of people would be dying like this. The French government needs to figure this out ASAP. 20 attacks since 2011!?”
Reunion has banned hunting sharks for food since 1999 because of concerns that their flesh is contaminated with a toxin.
Slater, who has a reputation as a conservationist, later told reporters that the Reunion attacks are “unprecedented.”
“There’s no natural reason that many people should be getting attacked in such a small area,” he said. “Sharks are a healthy part of any ocean and when not interfered with, the ocean creates a good balance. People should feel safe in most situations to swim and surf but Reunion obviously has an out of control situation that we don’t totally understand.”