UK’s View: Controversial Anti-Shark Plan in Noumea


After several attacks on its beaches, New Caledonia has decided to put in place several measures to fight against the presence of sharks. But scientists are worried about their influence and question their interest.

The waters of the Baie des Citrons beach in Noumea are teeming with fish and various aquatic species. A godsend for locals and diving enthusiasts. “There is exceptional biodiversity there, with in the coral reefs nearly half of the species present in New Caledonia”, testifies a resident in the pages of the Guardian. But, in recent months, shark attacks have multiplied on the beaches of the archipelago. One of them killed one in Nouméa last January.

The authorities, who have closed part of the waters of Baie des Citrons to swimmers, are stepping up their response, with “a selective culling program and anti-shark net projects”. Next October, a 758 meter long stainless steel underwater net should be installed off the beach. Answers that do not convince scientists and are debating among the population, reports the British daily.

Threats to biodiversity

“It’s hard to explain the increase in attacks,” says Johann Mourier, a behavioral ecologist specializing in sharks. According to him, the attacks tend to be cyclical: “We see a lot of bites in quick succession, then nothing for several years.” The targeting of tiger sharks and bull sharks is disputed: the two very dangerous species “had to be removed from the local list of protected species so that their slaughter was permitted”. As for the nets, they would be likely to threaten biodiversity, by preventing the passage of other species.

According to marine biologist Bastien Preuss, other solutions could be put forward, by focusing more on the causes of the influx of sharks in New Caledonian waters. “Local fisheries fed sharks for more than ten years before suddenly stopping. Today, fishing boats dump thousands of liters of waste into the bay every day, which has the effect of permanently attracting sharks. A lot of public money has been invested in logging campaigns and putting up barriers, but there are still major problems to be solved, [notably] the sewage system.”

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