Manhattan Beach Postpones Vote on Pier Fishing Ban

The proposed ban comes after a shark that was caught on the end of a fishing line attacked a man

City leaders in Manhattan Beach Tuesday postponed a vote on a pier fishing ban proposal being weighed after a man was attacked by a shark caught on a fishing line.

A temporary ban was put into place through Sept. 7 after a long distance swimmer, Steve Robles, was bitten by an agitated juvenile white shark, after it was caught on a fisherman's line July 5.

The Coastal Commission and State Department of Fish and Wildlife have provided input to the city council.

Tuesday would be the first time the city council as a whole would hear public comment regarding the controversial ban.

"I want to urge you to put public safety first and permanently ban fishing off the pier," one mother said at Tuesday night's meeting.

They were also expected to discuss whether the city has the authority to issue a permanent ban, according to city leaders. The Manhattan Beach Pier is regulated by the state.

"The state constitution explicitly guarantees the right to fish on submerged land granted to the municipality by the state of California," one fisherman said.

Another fisherman added that he would just go elsewhere if there is a ban at the pier.

"So this is what we do. We'll go to the surf line to fish. Are you prepared to pull us all off Manhattan Beach for fishing? Because if I can't fish off the Pier I'm gonna fish off somewhere else," the fisherman said.

Among the dozens of people who showed up to provide input at Tuesday's City Council meeting was Robles, who said he was healing from his injuries and was curious to see what the city was considering.

"The Pier belongs to everybody, it belongs to the fisherman, it belongs to the swimmers, the surfers, the people that run up and down at the end of the Pier," Robles said. "How do we regulate the Pier?"

Animal rights activist from PETA were also present at the meeting. They were expected to urge the city to make the ban permanent.

"It really demonstrates the danger that fishing represents to beach goers as well as wildlife," said Alicia Woempner, a project manager with PETA.

The group flew a large banner over the South Bay Tuesday reading "Keep Hookers off the Pier!"

But some long-time Manhattan Beach residents said they couldn't disagree more.

"No, no, no, no!" said a man who identified himself as Ross. "Everyone should have a right to come here to fish."

A healthier ocean has increased the number of white sharks in California waters, according to shark experts. Initial estimates put the number of white sharks at around 200 in California. Experts now suggest those numbers are closer to 2,400.

"These little sharks have been around for a few years now with lots of people in the water -- and we've never had any problems," said Chris Lowe, director of the shark lab at Cal State University, Long Beach. "Things will change though as the population continues to grow and these sharks grow, things will change but that's why we do research."

Environmental group, Heal the Bay, released a statement which stated it did not support a ban on all fishing.

"We do support responsible fishing and educating anglers about the need to not target white sharks and what to do if one is caught," it read. "We want to find a balance between needs of fishermen, safety of swimmers and the long-term health of the sharks that call the ocean home."

Some expressed concern that a full fishing ban would harm fishermen who fish to provide for their families.

"It's not really fair to ban fishing on the pier for them because they're not the ones creating the situation," said Lowe. "However, fishing for large fish off the pier does become a problem when you have swimmers or surfers very nearby."

Hermosa Beach is one of the nearby cities watching what Manhattan Beach decides to do. City leaders there were expected to discuss a fishing ban for Hermosa Beach at their scheduled city council meeting next week.

John Cádiz Klemack contributed to this report.

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