REUNION, France, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- Officials said a professional fisherman has been commissioned by the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion to capture 20 sharks following a rash of attacks.
The decision comes after Sunday marked the eighth shark attack in 20 months on the small island just east of Madagascar. A surfer was left with serious injuries to his right hand and right foot in the latest incident.
Radio France Internationale reported the measure aims to determine whether any of the bull and tiger sharks are carrying toxins that could lead to the food-borne illness ciguatera.
"The operation does not aim to control the shark population because it will be impossible to say when security can be assured," said prefecture official Xavier Brunetiere said Monday.
The Local reported St. Leu, Reunion, Mayor Thierry Robert offered last week to pay local fishermen to hunt and kill sharks. He was later pressured by Overseas Territories Minister Victorin Lurel, due to concern that such an offer would breach conservation laws.
Brunetiere pointed out Monday the bull shark is not a protected species and fishermen are free to go after it.
Other measures are under way as well, such as increased shark lookouts in surfing areas, a map of shark sightings and the tagging of 80 sharks for monitoring. Twenty sharks have already been tagged.
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