A strict ban on ocean swimming after an Australian was killed in New Caledonia earlier this year has been criticised by locals and tourists as a holiday hotspot continues to struggle.
The water was shut off bar a netted 200-metre stretch in the capital of Nouméa after the fatal attack in February. While the ban is temporary as the city awaits a permanent solution, business owners and those visiting the Pacific island nation are less than impressed with the decision.
"When tourists arrive and see our beaches closed, honestly, they find that stupid, because where they come from, shark attacks occur and they're worse than here," Francisco Maie, who owns a bar near a beach which is now deserted, told the ABC.
Tourism has been hit hard by the ban, with tourism operators telling the public broadcaster business has fallen by 60 per cent.
Council bosses stand by shark attack prevention measures
The ban has coincided with a commitment to shark culling, with council bosses saying both are necessary to restore trust in the country as a tourist destination.
"We don't want to be known as the 'shark islands' in the long term," Nouméa's city council secretary-general, Romain Paireau, said.
There are also plans to install shark nets to protect swimmers however their effectiveness has been called into question.
Nets entangle other wildlife, which some argue attracts sharks to beaches. NSW government data revealed of the 204 creatures caught in nets during the 2022/2023 season, only 24 were target species.
Shark attacks have risen in New Caledonia in recent decades, and while the exact reason is unclear, Claude Maillaud, a shark attack expert at the University of New Caledonia, told the ABC it could be due to a ban on tiger and bull shark fishing had allowed populations to swell. The ban ended in 2021.
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