Manhattan Beach to Lift Ban on Fishing From Pier

Aug. 13, 2014  -- The city of Manhattan Beach last night agreed to let a ban on pier fishing expire in two weeks. Along with the ban's expiration, additional fishing regulations will be implemented. The ban, imposed in July following an unfortunate incident where a hooked white shark bit a swimmer near Manhattan Beach Pier, was an effort to protect public safety. However, the City Council unanimously imposed a series of restrictions on anglers using the pier, whose waters attract a significant population of juvenile white sharks.

The new rules forbid the certain types of equipment that can be viewed as targeting white sharks, such as metal leader lines and excessively large hooks. Anglers will also not be permitted to chum the waters nor to cast overhead or directly into the surf zone.

The city also indicated that it would apply for a permit from the California Coastal Commission to restrict fishing to the end of the pier, which would reduce interactions with surfers and swimmers

Heal the Bay is concerned about prohibiting fishing from piers, because of the environmental justice issues it poses. Piers are one of the few places where people can fish without a fishing license in California. So they attract many subsistence anglers from throughout Los Angeles. They come to piers to fish for food due to the low cost and easy access.

The shark bite was a very unusual situation, and we believe closing piers to fishing goes beyond what should be done to reduce the risk of angler, shark, and beachgoer interactions.

As an alternative, Heal the Bay recommends the establishment of a pier and sport angler educational program that involves on-the-pier ambassadors that educate anglers about local sharks and marine life; which fish are allowed to target and which ones cannot be caught (e.g. white sharks); how to avoid catching these sharks and target other species; and to safely remove sharks and other marine life from their line.

State agencies, including the Department of Fish and Wildlife, have also raised concerns about the legality of prohibiting pier fishing. We also will provide input on better management practices at the pier that will help put a halt to irresponsible fishermen illegally targeting white sharks. It will take both education and more active restrictions/enforcement to achieve this goal.

Sharks play an important ecosystem role by keeping populations of other fish healthy and ecosystems in balance. In addition, a number of scientific studies demonstrate that the depletion of sharks can result in the loss of commercially important fish and invertebrates.

Despite popular perceptions of sharks as invincible, many shark populations around the world are declining due to overfishing, habitat destruction, and other human activities.

We look forward to working with the city and other stakeholders to find a solution that benefits both people and wildlife, and allows for a diversity of pier uses in Manhattan Beach and throughout the Santa Monica Bay.