International Travel

Swimming is banned on this dangerous island

Swimming is banned on this dangerous island

The French-speaking Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean has become a notorious hotspot for shark attacks, to the point where swimming and surfing have been banned beyond the coral lagoon.

Since 2011, eleven people have died from attacks and there have been more than 50 recovered between 1988 and 2016.

Dr Erwann Lagabrielle, a senior lecturer in geography at the University of La Réunion, witnessed one of these shark attacks in July 2015 along with two other surfers.

The victim, his friend Rodolphe Arriéguy, was attacked by a two-metre bull shark and suffered lacerations to his arm, which would eventually be amputated due to the injuries.

Now, Dr Lagabrielle is on a mission to explain why these waters are so deadly.

His research has found that the likelihood of being attacked by a shark at Réunion had increased “by a factor of 23” over the 28-year period.

“In nine out of 10 cases it is a bull shark,” Dr Lagabrielle told 9news.com.au.

But what could explain this increase?

According to Dr Lagabrielle, “it’s either an increase in the population of sharks or a change in their behaviour.

“These can be explained by other factors such as change in water temperature, fishing targeting shark populations.”

Though Dr Lagabrielle’s research looking to answer why attacks have increased is still ongoing, another expert believes the island’s active volcano, Piton de la Fournaise, could be involved.

In 2020, Marine ecologist Michael Heithaus told 9News.com.au bull sharks could be taking advantage of the murky conditions created by sediment washing into the water from the volcano’s slope.

He said the cloudy water could make the perfect hunting ground for “smart” predators.