Or maybe a non-emotional response to a spiralling problem?
It’s been a busy few months on pretty Reunion Island. First, back to back fatal shark attacks which prompted the article Shark Phobia is Justified and the posit that if driving a car was, as the stats are always being quoted, more dangerous than surfing, there should’ve been 100,000 car deaths on the little island.
In April, a suspected Islamist opened fired on cops after his apartment was raided (weapons and the ingredients for molotov cocktails found). A neighbour said she had noticed the recent convert to Islam had grown a luxurious new beard.
And, last Thursday, five sharks, three bulls and two tigers ranging from six to twelve feet, were caught off Saint-Pierre (the bulls) and Saint-Gille, the tigers.
No controversy in that piece of news, am I right? The joint’s crawling with tigers and bulls, neither fish in danger of vanishing.
Even Kelly Slater, who ain’t one for the knee-jerk killin’ of sea creatures, suggested it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to manage the island’s shark population.
“Honestly, I won’t be popular for saying this but there needs to be a serious cull on Reunion and it should happen everyday. If the whole world had these rates of attack nobody would use the ocean and literally millions of people would be dying like this.”
But, oowee, folks lit up when the photos of the beached fish were published online. A Facebook page called Contre la pêche des requins à la Réunion (Against Fishing Sharks on Reunion), which counts a healthy 12,692 likes, wrote:
“5 Sharks massacres in the one day of 18 may. !!!!!
Spread, share en masse l image of l ignoble massacre committed by the state has the reunion French in this moment. Amazing share in a few hours. Thank you, thank you for the sharks and for the meeting, continue even louder, share we must show that the people of réunion and those who support them refuse this heinous massacre, paid for with your taxes that a minority of surfers saint gillois imposes upon them, with the complicity of the State.”
That piece was shared 5044 times and stimulated close to two hundred comments, mostly of the it’s-their-turf-surf-at-your-own-risk variety.
What an emotional and divisive issue it is.
Reunion is an island where surfing and swimming is banned unless there are shark spotters in place, and nets serve as protection on a couple of beaches. Go surf and getting your leg or arm torn off and bleeding out before your buddies can get your stump back to the beach isn’t just an abstract concern.
It’s also an island run by the mother ship in Paris.
Wrap the bourgeoise Parisian’s feel-good vibes for sharks around the actual residents’ valid fears and you hit a wall.
Let’s imagine it’s you, and not Emmanuel Macron, in the Presidential Palace. You greet representatives from Reunion in your office who ask for the marine park listing to be removed.
They show you photos of little Eli Canestri, one of the island’s best young surfers, who died surfing four years ago.
“Despite the ban in place and the instructions of his coach, how could one forbid a young boy of 13 from pursuing his passion when one lives on an island surrounded by the ocean and these magnificent waves,” the president of the French Surfing Federation, Jean Luc Arassus, said at the time.
Or the barely teenage girl bitten in half swimming five metres from shore.
And photos of the seven other surfers dead because of what is clearly an overpopulation of sharks.
Would you remove the marine park listing?
Or would you capitulate to the position that the bull and tiger shark are sacred animals and must be protected at all costs?