Sharks have always been present in the Indian ocean and that for a long time ,this is mainly due to the fact that most sharks prefer warm waters to settle and migrate towards. This applies to the bull shark and tiger shark, the two main shark species that roam around Reunion Island and Mauritius. Although shark attacks were rather rare in Mauritius , they have become quite common in Reunion Island leading to them banning swimming in certain areas there. However, since the Mauritian lagoon has an abundance of fish, which is a limitless food source for the sharks, warm waters , those two species ( bull and tiger shark ) stay there all year round. What separates us from those sea monsters are the reefs, which unfortunately, are not a impenetrable fortress, due to pollution . The most saddening fact is that no set of laws has been set up to prevent fishermen from hunting sharks.
The latest issue which recently made headline is unequivocally that of the Bull Shark captured in the northern shores of the island. But what many of us tend to overlook is that these places form part of their habitat, though not completely, and it may happen that some of them find themselves fortuitously on shores. Instead of those hapless creatures being succored, the latter woefully suffer for the sake of us humans’ entertainment.
According to a study, we have witnessed a huge decline in the amount of sharks owing to tourists looking for trophies and fishermen looking to catch anything more valuable. Sharks not only face deplorable treatment like shark-finning but sightings of these creatures lead to many of them being barbarously being dragged to the shores for the sake of a selfie or for being interviewed for having first found the shark. They are therefore unnecessarily made to suffocate by being kept out of the water for long time till one of them decides to call the authorities at last.
The recent incident has further highlighted the plight of those animals which are caught and are fully at the mercy of cruel mercenary-like people. In the video captured at Grand Gaube, numerous people can be seen just standing around and doing nothing while two men jabbed at the shark’s sides with sharp knives. They engaged in shark-finning; most likely so that they could sell the valuable fins to restaurants around the island, where sharks’ fins soup is a popular delicacy.
This is not a one-off event. Earlier during the year many such episodes have occurred on many beaches; most of them were turned a blind eye to. For instance, on January 21, 2018, an enormous shark caught at Grand Gaube only was hanged by its tail from a tree, its fins shorn off and was later discarded due to its ‘uselessness’. Withal, on 21 February, 2018, another bull shark was captured by and this time, they were painfully tied to the side of the boat as the fishermen determined to bring it inland.
Sharks need their fins to swim. If they are thrown back into the sea without them, they will not be able to swim effectively. They will drown and die from suffocation and hunger or preyed upon by other apex predators.
Most species of sharks are endangered to some degree, however some species are critically endangered. And all of these are happening because of human’s activity : Sea pollution, dumped chemicals and toxic waste products, habitat loss, commercial fishing as well as shark fishing. And what people haven’t realized yet is that sharks are really crucial to the marine ecosystem since they keep the marine food chain in balance.
It is surely not a coincidence, proving that aquaculture is closely related to shark sightings. Feed and excrement of these fish draw sharks, which smell food from more than a mile away. Consequently, these sharks linger about that source of attraction and fishermen end up encountering them on their way. Tiger and bull sharks are among the most dangerous sharks and their spotting near our lagoons should not be taken lightly. The aquaculture industry has been implemented by greedy investors to make us believe that fish farming is the solution to food crisis when in reality everything points out that fish farming is not sustainable (due to their use of antibiotics and pesticides) yet. . These sharks would have never been killed in the first place if they were not lured into our lagoons. Sharks are meant to live in the sea indeed nevertheless their presence near our lagoons are abnormal.
Protecting our island from likely dangers of the sea is surely crucial but is it acceptable to kill an inoffensive shark? Some people will disagree, yet it is a crude reality in Mauritius. Do we really know when is it necessary to kill a shark? Is it when we see one and really want to cut it open to show to the general public? Alas, some pepple view it as being a way to gain pride or status in the society. Sharks are dangerous when they attack but they do not deserve such treatment. For a shark to be so close to a shore, it could have been in distress. According to the Dutch Shark Society: “Sharks also migrate. Whether sharks migrate or not depends to a large degree on temperature and seasonal changes, reproduction and food sources. People have never been on the menu of sharks, but are in their way more often”. Due to fishing, sharks do not have enough food sources and thus they have to look for alternatives and tend to come nearer to the shore undeliberately. We are killing a fish species which is in search of the food that we have been taking away from it. Capturing it and proudly showcasing its dead body is an immoral act that we should be ashamed of.
It is a fact that today, pieces of sensational news matter the most, and under that prospect, we could not expect the sharks to be spared. Even though the sea is undeniably the natural habitat of sharks, it is sounding extremely shocking for many, and amidst this surprise, many issues are being concealed.
For the fishermen of Grand Gaube, spotting a shark is not something out of ordinary. Despite the fact that official statistics state that this shark killing incident in Grande Gaube took place for the second time now, the specific fisherman who killed the bulldog shark affirmed that this was his ninth catch. This becomes a pressing issue as not only are our authorities unaware or being inefficient, but such a law breaching act is being publicly advertised, without any actions being taken.
Mauritius has signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and is supposed to stand firm against such acts. However, our priorities seem diluted with sharks being trophies instead of animals and the sea being ours rather than for such marine creatures. A simple way out could have been some law enforcement actions from the concerned authorities- the National Coast Guards who advocate for ‘’ the detection, prevention, suppression of any illegal activities within the maritime zones.’’ However, with the level of inaction and indifference prevailing, sharks are but just intruders in their own menagerie.