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Following Shark Attack, Should L.A. Pier Fishing Be Banned?

Following Shark Attack, Should L.A. Pier Fishing Be Banned?
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Updated at the bottom: The city of Manhattan Beach says its pier-fishing ban will extend for "up to" the next 60 days.

Animal rights group PETA is asking Manhattan Beach officials to make their temporary pier fishing ban permanent. Amen: Let's make that apply to all L.A. area piers.

The temporary ban was enacted following Saturday's shark attack on a swimmer. The shark had been on a fisherman's hook for as many as 40 minutes and was likely agitated as a group of distance swimmers approached (see video on the next page), an L.A. County official told us.

See also: Video of Shark Swimming After Manhattan Beach Attack

The Manhattan Beach Police Department banned fishing from the pier until Tuesday. PETA wants more:

The organization today sent a letter to Manhattan Beach Mayor Mayor Amy Howorth, urging her to make the ban an everyday thing.

PETA argues in a statement that "fishing and shark attacks often go hand in hand, as sharks become understandably agitated after being hooked and can be attracted by blood and bait dangling in the water."

The mayoral letter states, in part:

When you consider that in 2012, anglers at the Manhattan Beach Pier reeled in at least four great white sharks on three separate occasions, it seems clear that the best way to protect public safety and reduce the risk that another swimmer will be injured or killed by a panicked or confused shark is to ban fishing at the pier permanently.

Banning fishing will spare some of the millions of sharks, birds, turtles and other animals who sustain debilitating injuries after swallowing fish hooks or becoming entangled in fishing line every year.

Many beachgoers, including surfers, blamed the angler for Saturday's attack. On video, fishermen and onlookers can be heard hooting and hollering as the shark is on a line and swimmers appear to approach.

Surfers have long complained about pier fishing near breaking waves: Wave riders are sometimes hooked and often have to navigate fishing lines when paddling and surfing near piers.

There's really little enforcement of rules governing how far fishing should take place from swimmers and the surf line, too. It's not really lifeguards' job, and cops have better things to do.

The victim in Saturday morning's attack off Manhattan Beach Pier sustained moderate injuries after he was bitten in his upper-right torso, and possibly on his hand, by a 7- or 8-foot juvenile great white, according to authorities and reports.

The swimmer later also blamed the fisherman for allegedly agitating the beast and failing to cut the fishing line sooner.

After the attack, the angler appeared on television from the neck down, saying he feared retribution from surfers and arguing that he did everything he could to try to keep the shark away from the swimmers. The tattooed fisherman subsequently appeared on another TV outlet with his face in full view.

PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk:

This weekend's incident was painful for both victims — the young shark who struggled for more than 30 minutes while impaled on an angler's hook and the swimmer who had the bad luck to stumble into the shark's path. PETA is calling on the mayor to look out for everyone who wants to enjoy Manhattan Beach, including the sharks who naturally shun human contact and, like humans, rarely attack without provocation.

For the sake of surfers and swimmers, it would be nice if fishing was banned on piers up and down the dense L.A. coastline.

[Update at 6:06 p.m.]: Manhattan Beach's city manager today announced that the ban could extend to the next 60 days.

City manager Mark Danaj said the City Council would have a chance to review the ban on July 15. Unless that body says otherwise — and pending consultation with the California Coastal Commission, L.A. County officials and "other regulatory agencies" — it'll be in effect for two months, he said.

Here's part of his statement:

Today, the City of Manhattan Beach placed a prohibition on fishing from the Manhattan Beach Pier for up to the next 60 days. The temporary order is designed to give City officials an opportunity to evaluate impacts to public safety from allowing fishing from the pier.

The California Coastal Act and the City’s municipal code provide the authority to the City to grant an emergency coastal development permit which temporarily prohibits fishing from the Manhattan Beach Pier for up to 60 days. 

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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