On July 30, French government officials announced the implementation of a cash reward for culling bull sharks off the coast of Reunion, a French-controlled island east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The proposal was put forth in response to an increase in fatal attacks, and was set to come into effect as soon as a few weeks after it was announced. However, the proposed cull was quickly cancelled after it was discovered it violated French conservation law.

The cull would have only targeted bull sharks, a large and aggressive species believed to be behind recent shark attacks around the island. French officials from Reunion say that from 2000 to 2010 there were nine attacks with only one fatality, although in the past two years there have been several fatal attacks. The most recent incident, when a 22-year-old surfer died after his leg was bitten off in late July, marked the third fatality of seven total attacks between 2011 and the present.

Thierry Robert MP, mayor of St. Leu commune near Trois-Bassens, made the decision to allow the culling to “act to safeguard the security of goods and people of his town,” according to The Guardian. Following a meeting with Victorin Lurel, France’s minister of overseas territories, Robert determined that his proposal did indeed violate French conservation law. Specifically, it prohibits fishing or hunting “by any means” in protected marine areas.

Much to the dismay of locals, and to the celebration of animal rights groups, the proposal will not be followed through upon. Three hundred surfers rallied together in front of the prefecture building in support of shark culling in the marine reserve, while animal rights groups called the action “a legalized extermination.”

Speaking to The Guardian, Ali Hood, director of conservation for the UK-based Shark Trust, a member of the Shark Alliance conservation campaign, said, “the Shark Trust expresses its sympathy to the family of the fatally injured surfer. However, the trust does not believe indiscriminate financially driven culling is an appropriate response and encourages the local government to reconsider its position and authorize a more detailed investigation into the circumstances which led to the initial incident.”

Western Australia has also seen a rise in fatal shark attacks, which has prompted the nation to explore the possibility of culling great whites.

Image from Pierre Guinoiseau on the flickr Creative Commons

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