After months of controversy, this is a victory for opponents of preventive shark fishing in Reunion. The judge in chambers of the administrative court of Saint-Denis suspended, on Monday March 28, a prefectural decree taken at the end of December authorizing until 2024, in the event of observation of a bulldog shark or a tiger shark, “targeted direct debit operations” of sharks in a reinforced protection zone (ZPR2A) of the Reunion Marine Nature Reserve (RNMR) where any capture is usually prohibited. This fishing organized by the Shark Safety Center (CSR) in this specific sector had been the subject, in June 2021, of an unfavorable opinion from the scientific council of the marine reserve. The state ignored it.
Five associations, including Sea Shepherd and Longitude 181 Nature, then launched a request. Among them, only two Reunionese associations, Vie Océane and One Voice, won their case in a judgment which constitutes a first scathing setback for this fishing policy which they consider “blind, abusive and ineffective”.
In his reasons, the judge in chambers first retains “emergency condition” emphasizing that the purpose of the prefectoral decree is “unlimited harvesting of bull sharks and tiger sharks” registered “on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as Vulnerable and Near Threatened”. These sockets “directly affect the enhanced protection zone of the marine reserve as well as the inherent environmental objectives”. According to the administrative court, the impugned order “causes serious and immediate harm to the public interest”.
The judge goes further by questioning the effectiveness of this fishing. The prefect, he said, “has not demonstrated that the immediate implementation of an increased sampling system would be essential to ensure the safety of bathing and nautical activities places”. For the judge, this objective is mainly achieved “currently by prohibition or surveillance measures accompanied by appropriate information delivered to users”.
11 fatal attacks since 2011
In addition, the Administrative Court considers that there is “a serious doubt as to the legality” of this “police measure”. The judge points out the shortcomings of the public consultation procedure imposed by the environmental code: “No qualitative summary of the 751 opinions and observations of the public has been carried out nor any reason given to dismiss these observations, which are nevertheless 90% unfavorable. » The magistrate also retains to censor the prefectural text “an irregular procedure for lack of sufficient and relevant information” about “the usefulness of a measure that is nevertheless very controversial”.
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