SAINT-DENIS DE LA REUNION, France (Reuters) - A shark killed a 15-year old girl on Monday as she swam with mask and flippers a few meters (yards) from the shore of the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion.
It was the second deadly shark attack this year off the French island, which is just east of Madagascar, and brings to five the total of shark-related deaths there since 2011.
The teenager was snorkeling in Saint Paul Bay, in the northwest of the island, an unsupervised area where bathing is forbidden due to high shark numbers, officials said. A friend swimming with her was unharmed.
It was the first time in at least three decades that a swimmer, rather than a surfer, was killed by a shark off the island.
Local authorities this month renewed safety warnings after an increase in shark numbers. A mayor and French lawmaker, Thierry Robert, last year described a marine reserve near Saint Paul’s Bay set up six years ago to safeguard coral reefs as “a shark’s larder”.
Shark fishing is not forbidden in La Reunion but there has been little fishing since 2009 because of a toxin currently found in their flesh that causes food poisoning. Locals say tiger and bull shark populations have multiplied as a result.
A spate of shark attacks last year off La Reunion prompted France to hire a team of professional fishermen to kill around 20 of them but Paris has refused to mount a more widespread cull.
Reporting by Bernard Grollier,; Writing by Ingrid Melander,; Editing by Catherine Bremer and Angus MacSwan