New Caledonia: shark fear scares tourists - The360 Travel

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  • Saturday, December 14, 2019

    New Caledonia: shark fear scares tourists

    New Caledonia: shark fear scares tourists

    "There is no one left, we just have a German tourist, who has landed for a month," says Romain André, a cook on a campsite, just over a month after a deadly shark attack on the idyllic beach of Poé, in New Caledonia.

    Still shocked, the young man knew the victim well, his "former neighbor, dynamic and generous", appreciated by the inhabitants of this tourist area, in the town of Bourail, 160 kilometers north of Nouméa.

    On April 9, Nicole Malignon was swimming in 1.5 meters of water with her dog when she was attacked by a tiger shark, which tore her forearms. A bather went to her rescue but the sexagenarian died of her wounds.

    "The day after the accident, everyone left and reservations were canceled. It's the desert, "worries Andréa Sorin, who runs the youth hostel with an unobstructed view of the blue shades of the lagoon.

    "People are only talking about that, everyone has their theory about why tiger sharks are in the lagoon. Me, I do not want to participate," she says.

    On the road that runs along the immense beach of Poé, a multitude of small tourist structures - water activities, hotel, campsites, bungalows for rent - have bloomed in recent years, under the impetus of the authorities to boost the north of the southern province.

    In September 2014, a five-star golf hotel opened at the edge of an 8,000-hectare estate under development, whose cultural and natural heritage is highlighted to attract local and international tourists.

    Also, the drama of April 9 fell at the worst time.

    "It's a catastrophe. In Noumea, everyone thinks that Bourail is the teeth of the sea. We are really worried, there are no more reservations even for the long weekends of May, "sigh Catherine Daverat, director from the Tourist Office of the village.

    No swimming

    Since the attack, swimming and water activities are prohibited in Poé, where, thanks to daily overflights in the microlight of the lagoon, several sharks measuring between 2.5 and 3 meters were observed.

    This concentration of sharks is unusual and challenges specialists, who think "something must attract them", such as carcasses of dead fish or game.

    Despite the research organized by the town hall, no source of feeding has so far been identified.

    While the Poé lagoon is a marine protected area, the southern province has authorized between May 3rd and 10th "tiger shark harvesting operations", conducted in partnership with the IRD (Research Institute for Development) as well as the euthanasia, if found, of the shark causing the fatal attack, which the scientists are able to identify.

    "Two female tiger sharks were caught, banded and released from the lagoon. The last three days, we did not see anything, "explained AFP Laurent Thomas, firefighter captain of Bourail.

    Several environmental groups have been indignant that a "license to kill" is officially granted, considering the measure "totally useless" and accusing the town hall of not worrying about the pollution of the lagoon.

    On Thursday, the southern province said that if "by May 13" no shark was spotted, the town of Bourail "could lift" the ban on bathing.

    At the same time, a "security and development plan" for the Poé beach, where lookout towers must be installed, is being developed. To try to elucidate the presence of these large specimens of tiger sharks so close to the coast, "a program of research on the ecology and behavior" of different species of sharks will also be engaged.

    In the last ten years, five deadly shark attacks have occurred in New Caledonia.

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