The shark crisis on Reunion Island in a no-swimming area has not spared the diving industry. On Thursday, July 25, the Association of Diving Professionals (GPP), with the support of the Reunion Island Tourism Board (IRT), decided to invite the media to a press conference to take stock of the diving sector to date, as records indicate no incidents over 20 years of professional activity.
With the shark attack, the impact is already being felt on all water sports on Reunion Island, including diving. Pascal Viroleau, Director of the IRT, explained the desire of professional divers to make their voices heard so that it can be added to the debate. He also recalled that, in this context, the IRT supports the actions of the GPP and others involved in sea activities.
Professional diving is the second most-practiced sea activity on Reunion Island. Gregory Grandiere, President of the GPP, whose association represents 13 professional diving structures from Le Port to Saint-Pierre, said the objective of the association, which was created following the shark attack. The objective of the association is to ensure the promotion and development of diving on Reunion Island. Also, Gregory Grandiere stressed that no incidents have been recorded for more than 20 years of existence in the professional diving activity, with 1,500,000 dives under his belt.
Reunion Professional Divers / Photo from Reunion Island Tourism Board
Today, the surf industry has disappeared from the economic landscape of Reunion Island. The will of the GPP is to reverse the current trend of a loss of professional diving activity and recreation on the island. Given this situation, Gregory Grandiere stressed the importance of helping tourists to understand they can come to Reunion Island and enjoy ocean activities and swimming, provided they follow simple safety rules and prohibitions. These precautions include swimming in the lagoons and at secure swimming sites, and when scuba diving to go with supervised professionals who will also provide ocean security measures.
Philippe Doki-Thonon, owner of O’Sea Blue diving, said that although zero risk ocean activities do not exist, scuba diving, which is the second most popular activity on the island after hiking, is a necessary activity in the tourist development of Reunion Island. For his part, Pierre-Martin Razzi, Editor of the trade magazine, Subaqua, who was invited by the IRT as part of a press trip, said that meeting with a pelagic (marine life) is sought by divers, because it is rare.
According to Gregory Grandiere, there are actually known risks to getting into the water in some places on Reunion Island, but there are areas where the practice of swimming or water activities is possible for families with children, including diving. The intensive media coverage also did not explain that there are safety rules to be observed when in the ocean. Also the message he wants to convey is clear: the coaching provided by the diving companies provide security practices. He goes on to note that to date, Reunionese and European divers have confirmed that they have continued to dive in Reunion Island without incident. However, professional diving clubs are currently experiencing a loss of 40% on average for beginner divers, and the decline in professional diving activities is ongoing.
According to Pascal Viroleau, psychosis is evident. Companies in the diving industry are being affected while statistically, there are virtually no shark attacks in this sector globally. This is where the difficulty lies. As he also pointed out, there is no questioning the fact that there have been attacks on surfers and a swimmer, because it is a tragedy for the families and for all those on Reunion Island.
In conclusion, the GPP calls on all those who may provide assistance in this area to avoid seeing the diving industry as one that should be put off, but instead continue to work in cooperation with the competent authorities to improve the situation.