Shark attacks: who are the true culprits?


29-August-2011

A tiger shark

Nicolas Virolle, a 36-year-old French tourist and Ian Redmond, a 30-year-old British honeymooner were simply swimming as thousands of tourists used to do in these crystal sea waters.

The news of these shark attacks are frightening and surprising since no shark attack has been recorded since more than 40 years in Seychelles. Such an accident is normally very rare, based on the International Shark Attack File an average of 51.4 unprovoked attacks per year worldwide were reported for the entire decade of the 1990s.

It is easy to compile evidence reported by local eyewitnesses that sharks are lured in this area: ‘’the shark was there because the boats anchored in the cove were dumping their waste overboard’’ (source: http://sharkattackmonitor.wordpress.com).

Also Nirmal Jivan Shah of Nature Seychelles, in an article in The People in response to the first attack (sources: http://www.sppf.sc/thepeople) affirmed to have observed in this area boats without sewage holding facilities which means that the sewage just flowed out. He also reported that tourist eyewitness accounts suggested that in the purpose to attract sharks some people put ‘’blood and offal in the water’’. A French tourist impressed by the sizes of many sharks swimming near the sea of the Anse Lazio beach wrote on a web site forum: ‘’many sharks around the boat and near the coast with a size going over 2.50 m”.

In fact, if shark feeding exists at Anse Lazio, whether intentional or not (dumping of waste from boat), according to the study The pros and cons of shark feeding by Eric Clua -- a PhD in marine ecology -- this activity will attract sharks to this area and in consequence will enhance the probability of shark attacks. Therefore targeting the ‘’killer shark’’ does not make sense, since it is just a way to calm our fear.

Shark feeding is a common practice in the ecotourism industry and contributes to a change in public opinion on this animal, unfortunately without proper management the practice creates an opposite effect by becoming a danger for swimmers.

Authorities should pay more attention to know if such activities exist in Seychelles and also reinforce a ban on the dumping of waste from yachts and other boats into coastal waters to prevent sharks being lured near beaches.

In a time where the shark finning activity is a catastrophe for the marine ecosystem, these traumatic events reinforce inevitably the general phobia built by the sensational film ‘’Jaws’’. But sharks do not attack humans on purpose; when they attack it is mostly because of confusion with another species.

The first rule when swimming with sharks is to stay calm and not to show fear and most certainly not make it feel threatened. The movie Sharkwater by director Rod Stewart is an impressive documentary that everyone should watch to understand our responsibilities in such tragic events and open our mind on the governmental issues related to the shark finning activity.

Contributed by the Island Conservation Society

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