The city of Manhattan Beach has made it nearly impossible to fish for sharks from its pier.
The unanimous move by the City Council last night to restrict the kinds of gear and methods that a can be used by anglers was a direct reaction to the July 5 great white shark attack on a swimmer off the Manhattan Beach Pier. Officials also want to explore the possibility of a "marine reserve" that would ban fishing off their coast altogether.
The attack last month involved an agitated shark that was kept on a line for as many as 40 minutes before its path collided with that of a group of long-distance swimmers:
A swimmer was bitten in his upper torso and survived. But the incident inspired an uproar over pier fishing.
The council voted to impose restrictions on line materials, hook sizes, multiple hooks, and fishing "in a manner that is dangerous to persons using the beach or the water." Chumming was also outlawed.
All this was designed to discourage or prevent shark fishing. Councilman Wayne Powell said:
This is about protecting people who use the beach. We need to have regulations in place. (These) are reasonable. They won’t deny anglers their livelihoods, and they’re going to protect the safety and health of the public.
The council did lift its emergency ban on pier fishing, which will dissolve in about two weeks as signage for the new rules go up.
The president of the state Fish and Game Commission, Michael Sutton, this week warned Manhattan Beach not to impose its fishing restrictions. He said that any regulation of angling is the purview of state authorities. The pier is owned by the people of California.
The regulations were also opposed by the California Sportfishing League, which today argued in a statement that the City Council is going way too far:
... In direct violation of State law, the City adopted additional ordinances to regulate fishing by the method and manor of take, an authority that is exclusively reserved to the State Fish and Game Commission, and will consider a plan to establish a State Marine Reserve that would eliminate recreational fishing all together in Manhattan Beach and extend to Hermosa Beach.
Additionally, the Council wants to create no fishing zones on the pier and discussed imposing new time restrictions or hours when people can and cannot fish on the pier, an action that will require permits and approvals from the California Coastal Commission.
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Marko Mlikotin, executive director of the California Sportfishing League:
Once again the Manhattan [Beach] City Council exceeded its authority by imposing draconian regulations to address a regretful and isolated shark attack. To protect access to recreational fishing in California, we will challenge these illegal regulations before the California Fish and Game Commission. The City is also exposing taxpayers to potential costly litigation that will surely result in these illegal regulations being overturned.
The league has a reasonable points. Which is why the state legislature should take up the issue to ensure that shark fishing never collides with beach-going again.