Réunion Island Surfing | Is Kelly Slater Right To Call For A Major Shark Cull?

“Honestly, I won’t be popular for saying this..."

In the past week surfing legend Kelly Slater has caused quite the stir; firstly calling for a major shark cull on Réunion Island, then defending his comments against the subsequent backlash.

So let’s start this story at the beginning.

The French Réunion Island is somewhat of a surfing paradise, bar the fact that the waves there have been plagued for sharks for some time. In 1999 a ban on the sale of shark meat saw the number of sharks in the area increase, and in 2013 there was even a temporary ban on surfing outside of the island’s lagoons while the government culled 45 tiger sharks and 45 bull sharks.

“I have been an environmental activist and voice for more campaigns than I can remember…”

Shark attacks have remained a problem at the site though, and after the 20th surfer since 2011 was killed in an attack last week on Réunion, 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater called out for there to be a further cull of the animals.

Taking to Instagram, Slater wrote some Jaws-dropping comments (get it?). They read: “Honestly, I won’t be popular for saying this but there needs to be a serious cull on Réunion and it should happen everyday. There is a clear imbalance happening in the ocean there.

Photo: iStock.

“If the whole world had these rates of attack nobody would be dying like this. The French [government] needs to figure this out ASAP. Twenty attacks since 2011?!”

The post did indeed prove an unpopular one, with followers of Slater taking to the post to passionately debate the impacts of a cull from an environmental view. Their arguments included:

  • “We have no more of a right to control their environment than we do anyone else’s.”
  • “This makes me sick. Shark numbers are already far too low and yet you want to cull them because of your hobby? The waters are their home and by entering, you are no longer top dog, so accept it and continue to take the risk or get out of the waters.”
  • “Are you really that out of touch?? You live on planet earth as a surfer, you should respect that you are a GUEST in the marine environment, it is NOT your habitat it is THEIRS!”
  • “Don’t blame a creature for trying to survive when it is man who has screwed up their ecosystems.”
  • “They were in the water first and the reason why they’re now looking at anything in the water to eat is because we’re fishing out their home.”

Subsequently, Kelly was forced to speak out again and clarify his view.

Interestingly, he stood by his initial statement, outlining the multitude of environmental work he has done in the past and is continuing to do now.

He wrote: “I have been an environmental activist and voice for more campaigns than I can remember. I’ve worked with Rhinos [sic] in South Africa to bring awareness and education to the poaching issues they experience. I’ve been a vocal opponent to #SharkFinning and find it despicable practice which has no place in our world.

“I want to become vegan due to the treatment and slaughter of the most defenceless and innocent animals on this planet. I produce clothing from discarded fishing nets to help clean up the mess left behind by fishing industry.

“My heart is in the right place but now I am being vehemently attacked by the people I have most identified with for the majority of my life.

“Humans are the biggest threat to life on earth as most creatures know it. But they are also the most capable and able to fix the issues we face. My comments were in reaction to another death of a kid following his passion. I know more about this issues than 99+% of people commenting yet I still don’t know enough.

“I was in no way advocating for a worldwide destruction of any species. In fact, there’s a chance many more species of sharks and other sea life could thrive without the over abundance of bull sharks in Réunion Island ravaging the local environment.

“This is not about me having fun and being selfish for my sport. This is a human and environmental issue.

“I have never personally killed even a single shark in my lifetime and am not fronting an effort to do so. So say what you need to say and let’s get on with where this needs to go.

“Maybe something good will come of it.”

Do you agree with Kelly Slater that more life would be able to blossom if there was a cull?

Or do you think that given the amount of sharks in the world, and the amount of surf spots, that the surfers should just go elsewhere? Let us know your thoughts either way.

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