Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association

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Marine biodiversity of Reunion Island needs your help!

In a context of increasing degradation of coral reefs in Reunion Island, the National Marine Reserve was established in 2007. Five percent of the reserve represent sanctuary areas, 45% are fishery regulated areas and half (50%) of the reserve allows fishing under the same conditions as outside the reserve.

Marine protected areas have been proposed to protect biodiversity, restore damaged ecosystems, sustain fisheries, and rebuild overexploited stocks. Therefore, they also benefit the economic activities such as tourism and fishing.

In Reunion, the benefits of this marine protected area (the “reserve effect”) are slow to establish due to strong coastal human pressure (urban, industrial, agricultural, etc). Recent measurements show a slight increase in the amount of fish in the sanctuary areas (5%). Although this increase is slow, it confirms the major interest of protective measures which is to enable ecosystem restoration.

Considering the lack of knowledge on shark biology and behaviour, the marine protected area cannot be held responsible for attracting sharks by food availability, since fish stocks are still low inside the protected areas.

The National Marine Nature Reserve of Reunion Island is the only way for Reunion coral reefs to recover. We ask the government to maintain protection measures inside the marine protected area. We also support any effort to protect this common heritage that we want to preserve for future generations.

The future of the Marine Reserve of La Reunion Island (South West Indian Ocean) is threatened because of the “shark crisis” context which is currently going on in the island. Some people believe that this protected area is responsible for attracting bull and tiger sharks because of food availability. However, this assumption relies on no objective evidence, since preliminary results show a very week 5% increase of fish stocks in the area since it was calssified as a protected area. It is suspected that the government will announce the opening of the marine protected area and especially the fishing sanctuaries.

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