SM PIER – Yes, the Santa Monica Pier was destroyed by “Sharknado” but City Hall isn’t afraid of sharks.
Despite a moratorium on pier fishing in Manhattan Beach implemented earlier this month – after a shark, hooked by a pier angler, bit a swimmer – Santa Monica is taking an educational approach.
The Manhattan Beach swimmer survived the shark attack but city officials decided to ban fishing through Labor Day. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) flew a banner stating, “Keep Hookers off the Pier! Ban Fishing,” after the incident.
“Fishing has been part of the Pier since it was built over a hundred years ago and is not only a recreational activity but for a number of people who come it is a source of food,” said Pier Manager Rod Merl. “The City wants to balance this with a program to encourage safe, respectful and sustainable fishing practices on the pier. Heal the Bay is working on this idea with us – and for other piers in the Santa Monica Bay Area.”
Heal the Bay, a nonprofit organization based on the pier that aims to protect the Santa Monica Bay, sent a letter to Manhattan Beach City Council advocating for “a pier and sport angler shark ambassador educational program” rather than a fishing ban.
“Such program would involve on-the-pier ambassadors that educate anglers about which fish are allowed to target, and which ones cannot be caught (e.g. white sharks); how to avoid catching these sharks and target the other species; and to safely remove sharks and other marine life from the line,” said Ruskin Hartley, president and CEO of Heal the Bay, in the letter. “Such a program could also educate anglers and other pier visitors about the diversity of sharks in the Santa Monica Bay, and their ecology.”
Heal the Bay already has a similar program through its pier angler outreach program, which reaches an average of 10,000 people a year on Los Angeles and Orange county piers.
“In addition to providing an education benefit, an ambassador program could also help reduce the occurrence of intentional pursuit of white sharks on piers, since there would be a dedicated presence on the piers,” Ruskin said.
John Volaski, a co-owner of the Bait and Tackle shop on the pier, said that the sharks in question have been swimming around the area of the Santa Monica Pier without incident for thousands of years.
“It’s not an issue over here,” he said.
Commercial fishermen are usually in boats off the coast, he said, but the pier is still a popular spot among sport anglers and fisherpeople catching their dinner.
One pier fisherman, who declined to give his name, said he’d seen a handful of others catch sharks off the pier this summer.
PETA did not respond to the Daily Press’ request for comment.