The city of Manhattan Beach instituted a ban on pier fishing for up to 60 days on Monday amid concerns over public safety following an attack on a swimmer by a great white shark over the weekend.
Long-distance swimmer Steven Robles was training for a September swimming event with 14 other swimmers when a 7-foot juvenile shark bit him in the hand and torso areas on Saturday.
The shark had been hooked by a fisherman about a half-hour earlier and was fighting to get free when it attacked Robles.
“At that point, when I felt that crunch going right into my chest — that was it. I thought, ‘Oh, my God,’” he said. “I grabbed his nose … and started pushing him, trying to pry him off of my chest. He released himself and swam away immediately. I never saw him again.”
The 50-year-old swimmer was treated at the UCLA Medical Center and released Saturday night to recover at his Lomita home, Robles said in an interview.
The incident renewed a long-time debate over the safety of pier fishing within a short distance of beach activities such as surfing and swimming.
Part of the danger, according to critics, is due to the practice of chumming, which involves throwing fish parts and blood into the water to lure other fish and sharks to the pier.
“Before this all happened, we saw people throwing chum off,” one witness said.
However, officials were unsure about the chumming accusations.
“Some of the witnesses said that they saw chumming, but we didn’t see that,” Capt. Trace Riddleton of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.
While chumming is legal, it may not be a good idea in an area where people are swimming and surfing, co-director of the Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium Eric Martin told the Los Angeles Times.
A 60-day ban on fishing off the Manhattan Beach pier was put in place on Monday, according to a news release from the city.
During the ban, city officials planned to consult with regulatory agencies such as the State Coastal Commission to evaluate the impact of pier fishing on public safety, the release stated.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called on the mayor of Manhattan Beach to make the fishing ban permanent.
“As long as people continue to fish its only become more likely that more sharks are going to enter these shallow areas,” said Liam Cronin of PETA. “Sharks don’t want to come that close to shore, they’re only coming because they smell blood.”
The issue was expected to come up at the next city council meeting, according to one source at Manhattan Beach City Hall.
KTLA’s Kennedy Ryan and Jim Nash contributed to this report.