Where is Reunion Island?
Reunion is an island in the Indian Ocean located to the east of Madagascar. According to the French island's official website, Reunion is "a true melting pot" thanks to its location "at the crossroads of European, African, and Asian cultures."
It's famous for its volcanic landscape, beautiful beaches, and stunning coral reefs. In recent years, Reunion became known for the shark attacks which have taken place in the waters surrounding the island.
How many shark attacks have there been on Reunion Island?
According to a report cited by the BBC, there have been 24 shark attacks — 11 of them of fatal — on Reunion Island since 2011. This is a huge number considering the size and isolated location of Reunion. According to Deeperblue.com, 16 percent of the world's fatal shark attacks occurred on Reunion Island for the 2011-2017 period.
The government has implemented measures to keep people safe, including periods banning surfing, swimming, and water sports.
Why are there so many shark attacks on Reunion Island?
Scientists have a few different theories on why the waters surrounding Reunion Island seem to be the home to so many shark attacks. As the Guardian notes, one possible cause is the overfishing of reef fish and reef sharks which has reduced natural sources of prey for bull sharks. Increased pollution also causes poor underwater visibility, which could make exploratory bites more likely.
The Guardian also cites a theory that the prevalence of fish farms, as well the reported dumping of animal waste, could contribute to the high rate of attacks.
Hearing about shark attacks is no reason to live in fear, though.
Dr. Craig O'Connell, aka The Shark Doctor featured on Return to Shark Island, doesn't want people to view sharks as monsters.
In an interview with Newsweek, he said, "There are sharks out there, but I think that what I've learned from being out there all the time is that people are most likely sharing water with sharks every single day, and the fact that they are not interacting is an indication that they are safe."
How can you avoid shark attacks?
Obviously, listen to any warnings or notices telling you to stay out of the water. The Florida Museum also recommends swimming in a group, staying close to shore (in the unlikely event you are attacked, you'll be closer to help) and avoiding the water at night, dawn, and dusk.
You could always just stay on the beach, but where's the fun in that?! Shark Week 2019 runs through August 4 on the Discovery Channel.