Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Heal the Bay: Ban on Pier Angling in Manhattan Beach a Bad Idea

In the wake of the unfortunate shark incident in Manhattan Beach, where a hooked white shark bit a swimmer, the city of Manhattan Beach deliberated last night about potential management actions to minimize harmful interactions among anglers, wildlife and ocean users.

The City Council had already enacted a temporary 60-day pier fishing prohibition beginning July 7, and decided last night to continue the discussion about best management practices to its next meeting. Dozens of people attended the meeting, encouraging a variety of actions, from prohibiting fishing permanently on the pier to advancing gear and fishing-swimming zone management measures.

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.

At the meeting last night, councilmembers said that they plan to meet with key stakeholders over the next few weeks, including Heal the Bay, to discuss a management plan for pier fishing that also benefits our marine environment.

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.

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