In the waters around the island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean a shark was caught, which had swallowed a torn human hand. Since there was a wedding ring on one of his fingers, it soon became clear who he was: that of a Scottish tourist who had disappeared a few days ago while snorkeling in the French overseas territory.
According to the BBC, the 44-year-old man is said to have spent a week on vacation with his wife on the island between Madagascar and Mauritius. The last time he was seen, he went snorkeling at the weekend – and disappeared without a trace after a short time.
La Reunion is now "the island of sharks"
A local apparently aware of the situation told BBC Scotland that the man had only been away for a few minutes to go swimming. The area in the water is largely protected by a coral reef, hence the islanders. "There is a narrow passage to the deeper ocean, but it is generally well protected by the coral reef," the area described.
After numerous, partly deadly, shark attacks in recent years, La Reunion is now called, especially in water sports circles, "the island of sharks". "Diving" magazine described the situation in a March article this year entitled "Shark Alarm in the Paradise Island of La Reunion". A potential reason for the increase in attacks that have made this area much more dangerous than the waters off Australia and North America is called the nature reserve. Because the oceans are otherwise heavily overexploited, these waters attract sharks with their species richness like a buffet. The attractiveness of the animals is also helped by a fish farm – and by the fact that the fishermen throw catches in coastal waters and thus attract the animals in addition.
Tourism against species protection
Sharks put La Reunion in a dilemma. Although shark attacks are detrimental to tourism – on the other hand, many species of sharks are endangered or even threatened with extinction. Animals regulate the marine ecosystem and therefore play an important role. A massive shark killing off La Reunion would appeal to environmentalists around the world – and it would probably be catastrophic for the image of the island, which belongs to France and therefore to the European Union.
The danger for water sports is great: especially in the last six years, the number of shark attacks in the waters of La Reunion has increased considerably: Wikipedia lists a total of eight fatal predatory fish attacks since the end of 2013. Meanwhile, bathing bans prevail in most bays and beaches. French President Emmanuel Macron, the BBC, recently announced plans to allow water sports in La Reunion from 2022 onwards. But only if it's safe by then.
The shark's warning is omnipresent
The islet, interviewed by the BBC, also highlighted the problem of numerous shark attacks in the area: everywhere on the island – even at the airport – with warning signs of predators. "It's something we don't hide," says the man. Wherever you are not allowed to swim, signs of prohibition. This is the case of beaches that are not protected by natural reefs. In the waters off La Reunion there are also boats coming in – if someone is in a dangerous situation.
It is not clear what exactly happened in the case of the Scots and how the alleged shark attack came about. From the press reports it is still not clear if the bathroom is allowed in the place where the man went into the water. Shortly after his disappearance a large-scale research operation began with helicopters and boats, then the BBC. The uncertainty prevailed for several days until no body parts were found in the body of a shark captured by the competent authority, the Center de Securite Requin (CSR).
The animal was captured about seven kilometers from the lagoon, where the man was swimming. It is not clear if the man was attacked and killed by the shark – or if he was drowned and eaten.
Sources: BBC, "Diving", "Wikipedia"