In 2011, in response to the French-governed Reunion Island’s elevating ‘shark crisis’, renowned local water sports figure Jean Francois Nativel, founded the first Reunion’s shark attack prevention society (Océan Prevention Réunion). The Society advocates the development of measures that will support people who use the ocean for recreation and employment.
Jean has now written a book Requins à La Réunion: une tragédie moderne (Sharks attacks, a modern tragedy, Reunion Island’s story) and is visiting Australia to speak about the issues raised.
He will give a presentation at the Lennox Head Community Centre on Saturday October 20 to discuss the book and the Reunion experience.
Over the past few years, the tropical island paradise of Reunion has been divided as a result of its experience with shark attacks. At the crux of the issue: shark conservation, versus humans’ rights to enter the ocean.
In Reunion, between memorials for lives lost, there have been heated protests and emotions are running high on both sides.
One of Jean’s biggest concerns is the intervention of the government in this issue. In parts of the Island there are now bans on people entering the ocean and arrests have been made of ocean users. Reports suggest that one shark attack victim was threatened with legal action from a restaurateur reliant on tourism for a loss of income and ruining patronage, after an attack occurred nearby the ‘once popular’ business.
But Jean is very much on the side of human rights and the freedom to choose in this argument.
‘I am attempting to illustrate a shift of our modern societies towards anti-humanism. Today, where human interests meet with nature, we are now confronted by an ecological front of unaffected people intervening in the debate with no connection, empathy or compassion to human victims, and instead, demanding that ‘people be punished’ to save the earth,’ he says.
‘My goal with the book is not about money. I want to be able to inform people about the shark situation in Reunion as an example, which I sense is spreading worldwide as a problem also with other terrestrial predators.’
‘After a frustrating past few years and a relentless struggle against the implementation of public policy by the French authorities over the island, I also ran to be a candidate in Parliament. Although not elected, I did obtain strong results that pushed my cause to be finally taken seriously by politicians of the French government.’
Jean’s priority is what he sees as the diminishing rights of people to enter the water. He will discuss the similarities and parallels emerging between the situation in Reunion and other world ‘shark hot-spots’ like Australia, South Africa, Hawaii, Recife (Brazil) and Florida.
Jean is also a member of international shark victim support group Bite Club, and his book touches on his relationship networking worldwide with other Bite Club survivors.
But Bite Club founder Dave Pearson insists Bite Club does not take sides in this debate.
‘Regardless of Jean’s, or any individual’s view and what side of the fence you take on shark mitigation, everyone’s opinion is respected. Bite Club is all about providing support to any person in the community affected by the trauma of shark attack,’ he says.
Dave, who comes from NSW Mid-North Coast, will be attending the Lennox Head presentation and says, ‘We have many members in Reunion who have lost family and friends and hope during the weekend of Jean’s visit to arrange a “Surf in Support” with our local Bite Club members.’
All are welcome to attend the free presentation on Saturday October 20 at the Lennox Head Community Centre. Starting at 5pm the 90 minute presentation will also include a Q&A. For more info. see Facebook Event details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/531904820569619/