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Bond shark expert briefs Prince of Monaco

It sounds like the plot of a children's book - the Prince and his sharks - and Bond University Associate Dean Daryl McPhee played a starring role.

Dr McPhee has just returned from Monaco, where he was personally invited by Monaco's ruler, Prince Albert II, as one of eight shark experts from around the world to discuss the issue of unprovoked shark bites at Reunion Island, a small French territory located south of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.

Over three days, the shark experts, Prince Albert II and a team of interpreters discussed the spate of recent fatal shark bites, which have negatively impacted tourism in Reunion, renowned as a haven for surfers.

Dr McPhee said Prince Albert II was passionate about shark conservation and was looking for a solution to mitigate shark bites and the tourism repercussions that had resulted from them.

"The attacks have been affecting both tourism and the way of life at Reunion," he said.

"The Prince has a trust that currently focuses on shark conservation, so it is obviously a topic that is close to his heart.

"He was very down to Earth and knowledgeable about the issue and had invested a significant amount of time on it.

“The way of the future for dealing with the issue of unprovoked shark bite is not through control programs, but through non-lethal means including shark spotting programs, personal shark deterrents and education."

Dr McPhee, the only Australian academic involved in the forum, was invited to take part after releasing a study recently that looked at unprovoked shark attacks around the world, including Reunion Island.

The study revealed, despite its small population, Reunion recorded the sixth highest number of fatal shark bites world wide and the highest fatality rate at 51.6 per cent.

In comparison, Australia had the highest number of documented fatalities from shark bites, but of the 171 unprovoked bites only 18.7 per cent were fatal.

The other international experts discussed shark hot spots including Cape Town, Brazil and the United States.

"Although the number of fatalities compared to bites is relatively high at Reunion, one of the points I discussed was the necessity for education as the significant fear people have of sharks, is still disproportionate to the actual risk of an unprovoked bite," said Dr McPhee.

"There will now be ongoing dialogue between all those who participated in the forum to see if we can continue to contribute in any way to improving the situation in Reunion."

ENDS

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