Réunion Island, Sharks, Communities and The Law

RPELA is proud to play it’s role in protecting the lives and environment of the Réunion Surf and Ocean communities.

Since inception, the International Shark Attack File has reported 43 Unprovoked Shark Attacks on Réunion. In fact, since 2006, there has been 9 fatal shark attacks at the Island. Following these attacks, The Prefect (Governor), in a bid to remove liability from Réunion Authorities, issued a blanket ban on surfing.

This powerful stance by the Réunion Authorities received backlash internationally with condemnation to the simplistic and unthoughtful approach to the issue. Notably, 11-times world champion Kelly Slater made his voice on the issue public, stating “I won’t be popular for saying this, but there needs to be a serious cull on Réunion and it should happen every day. There is a clear imbalance happening in the ocean there. If the whole world had these rates of attack nobody would use the ocean and millions of people would be dying like this. The French government needs to figure this out as soon as possible.” Kelly’s comments fuelled a divide between pro and anti shark culling groups, which eventually lead to him retracting his earlier comments, claiming his viewpoint was not driven by a desire for revenge.

Following the hotly-debated topic among Surf communities, Réunion surfers began reclaiming their right to use the ocean, and ignored the official warnings by taking to the oceans themselves. The surfing community fostered an importance on self-protection. Surfers began informing themselves on available options for shark-mitigation strategies that they could be using to protect themselves from the threat of attack.

Enter RPELA.
RPELA has been supporting the local surfing community of Réunion for over 6 years, allowing individual ocean users and surfers to empower themselves by using portable, wearable shark deterrent systems. Board shapers all along the surfing coast of Reunion (Saint-Leu, Les Trois-Bassins, Saint-Gilles, etc.) have been trained professionally in the installation and retrofitting of the RPELA Housing & Sub into surfboards. Surfers go get the RPELA Housing installed into their boards, then clip the device in and out of their boards. The device turns on automatically upon contact with the water and emits a 3-meter protective field around the surfboard. The protective zone is an electrical DC current field that interferes with Sharks natural six sense - electroreceptors.

Electroreceptor nodes are found in the snouts of all sharks. Sharks use these nodes to detect electrical fields that are caused by preys. An example being a fish in distress aggressively swimming away - This would cause a change in electrical emittance that sharks use to detect that a fish is vulnerable. The RPELA unit takes advantage of this capability unique to sharks and within a specific range, sharks get “shocked”, a feeling similar to a punch, causing them to rethink their exploration. This technology provides surfers the vital few seconds needed to safely flee the ocean.