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Were Fishermen Chumming the Waters Near Pier? Conflicting Answers

"I'm still rattled, my nerves are still shaky," shark victim Steven Robles said today.

Steven Robles. Photo credit: Eric Hartman for Manhattan Beach Patch.
Steven Robles. Photo credit: Eric Hartman for Manhattan Beach Patch.

Originally posted at 8:50 p.m. July 6, 2014.

The director of the Manhattan Beach Pier's aquarium today knocked down reports that anglers had chummed the water with shark bait just before a fisherman hooked a 10-foot-long great white shark, which then chomped and spat out a swimmer.

Officials said nothing illegal was done, and Aquarium Co-Director Eric Martin told the Los Angeles Times that he was there and saw no chumming Saturday morning.

The swimmer, Steven Robles, told reporters he suspected that chum had enticed the juvenile shark into an area crowded with swimmers, and said such an act was stupid. Robles is part of a group of open-ocean swimmers who regularly swim between piers in the South Bay.

Several newspapers and TV stations reported that witnesses accused the anglers of throwing chum -- bloody fish parts -- into the water, and using chum as bait on the line that temporarily hooked the shark.

But the fisherman involved denied he was chumming and said he only used a small sardine as bait, according to the CBS Los Angeles stations CBS2 and KCAL9. He or she were reportedly confronted by surfers who came out of the water after the bizarre incident.

The fisherman's version of events appears to be backed up by law enforcement, who shut down all fishing from the Manhattan Beach pier until at least July 8, but said the fisherman had done nothing illegal, according to KCAL9/CBS2.

"For what we fish for, there is no need to chum," the unidentified fisherman told KCAL9/CBS2. "The fish are already there.

"They're not attracted to blood. The fish we're fishing for have nothing to do with it."

Chum or no, fishing has been banned from the pier for the next few days.

Robles told CNN and other TV stations he was still shaken up by his experience.

"I'm still rattled, my nerves are still shaky," the Realtor told CBS. Robles said he was still pretty sore and had tightness in his chest and no feeling in his right thumb.

"The shark came right up to me, bit right into my torso area," Robles said. "He penetrated the first layer of my skin and into my fat tissue. Somehow I had enough sense to grab his nose  with my right hand and pry him off my body.

"For a second, I thought this might be it," Robles continued. "I was absolutely terrified. I never thought I would die in the ocean."

Robles also told CBS he was a trained long-distance swimmer and had swam 20 miles from Catalina Island to Palos Verdes last year. At the time of the attack, he said, he was with a group of 14 swimmers who swim there every Saturday morning.

Robles also said he believed he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Robles said he felt the fisherman who hooked the shark had made a "horrible decision, thinking he was going to go catch a shark and accrue all that attention."

Robles said he was told the fisherman had the shark on his pole for 40 minutes and when he was finally cut loose, the shark was agitated and "I was the first thing it saw."

Robles also believes he is lucky to still be alive. "I'm very thankful God was on my side protecting me. I truly believe God was may savior today."

The shark -- estimated by county lifeguards to be 10 feet long -- bit Robles in his upper right torso and then spat him out, County Fire Inspector Rick Flores said after the Saturday attack. Robles had stable life signs and moderate injuries, and was bleeding but conscious and talking to paramedics as he was loaded into an ambulance among weekend beachgoers on The Strand just south of the pier.

A popular stretch of beach one mile north and south of the pier was closed to swimming, as a county helicopter ordered people out of the 69-degree water on a holiday weekend. It was reopened shortly after 3 p.m.

About 20 minutes after the bite, the Manhattan Beach police Department brought in the sheriff's Aero Bureau for help in locating the shark, said Sgt. Morrie Zager of the sheriff's Aero Bureau.

A chopper crew located the great white about 200 yards north of the Manhattan Pier, Zager said. Deputies directed a lifeguard boat and a Redondo Beach Harbor Patrol boat to the shark, Zager said.

"A paddle boarder was directed away from the shark by the boat crews," the sheriff's sergeant said. "After approximately 30 minutes, the boats were able to coax the shark out deeper water and away from the pier."

--City News Service


Fred Reardon July 07, 2014 at 01:01 PM
It appears he caught the shark. He held the shark in place until the swimmers approached. And then, when the confrontation between sharks and swimmers occurred, the group on the pier laughed about it. It certainly appears to me that a police investigation should take place into this horrific act.
Bob Boren July 07, 2014 at 01:18 PM
Well, I figured it was only a matter of time before somebody would call for fishing to be prohibited. Stupid. Surfing or swimming are no more "noble" or "socially acceptable" than fishing, and there's enough room for everybody down there. If they are going to outlaw fishing there, then it would be only fair to outlaw surfing and swimming too. This was a freak occurrence.....and probably has more to do with environmentalists pressure to protect sea lions than it does with people fishing off the pier. Environmentalists always tend to leave us with unintended consequences, like over population of species they are trying to protect, which adds to the predator population. And this post is from somebody who's brother was killed by a shark.....up in Monterey where large Great Whites are common.
Brett O'Keefe July 07, 2014 at 02:19 PM
I love the ocean, I have been an active surfer for over thirty years and also grew up fishing from piers. The quote above by BOREN is 100% on point and accurate. Prohibiting fishing is ridiculous. The fisherman, did not attract the shark to the area or intentionally direct it toward the swimmers. The two sort of ran into one another while the shark was hooked. Just a freak incident. (while they may have been ill-mannered, there is no crime against laughing, clearly they did not think or realize the shark had bit the swimmer) We all know Great White Sharks are dramatically increasing due to the rise in seal populations. Thankfully, most of the Great Whites in our area are juveniles. If there are many seals in our area, more down south then we will eventually see more larger sharks; in which case, you will not be able to avail yourselves to blaming silly fisherman hooking small sharks off the pier. (Seals have increased from a few thousand to over 300,00.) If you love the ocean and plan on swimming in it then just deal with it: there are sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, currents, and clueless weekend boaters....among the many hazards that may cause you bodily harm. Chomp on that during your "investigation"
Henry Xavier July 07, 2014 at 02:25 PM
Remember swimmers not to swim close to A PIER. (danger-danger) shark or not. Tides change, winds change, different currents and lots of floating trash around that area. peace h.x.
Duke Noor July 08, 2014 at 01:05 AM
I have been surfing and walking on or near the Manhattan Beach Pier since 1964! I may consider not walking or swimming near the Pier anymore though, since I have more of a chance to be hit by lightning than to be bitten by a great white shark. I do believe in personal responsibility both for the fishermen and the swimmers. Swimmers make a choice when they go in the water and the fishermen make a choice to break laws set forth. There are risks for both. More laws and bans will never change human apathy, stupidity and/or ignorance. In this case, I believe that the fisherman was at fault and he should have cut the line earlier than he did. By banning and chipping away more and more of our liberties will make no difference whatsoever on isolated shark encounters (which we've all had, whether we knew it or not).

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