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Hooked Shark Bites Swimmer Near Manhattan Beach Pier

Jul 05, 2014 11:16AM ● By Dig Mb Staff

A man reportedly bitten by a shark south of the Manhattan Beach Pier Saturday morning is placed into an ambulance by Manhattan Beach firefighters/paramedics. Photo: Eric Hartman

Story reported by DigMB staff

A fisherman’s attempt to catch a great white shark from the Manhattan Beach Pier Saturday morning led to a swimmer being bitten by the hooked, thrashing shark. The swimmer was rescued by surfers and lifeguards and taken to the hospital with wounds to the hand and rib area.

Eric Martin, marine biologist and director of The Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium at the end of the pier, saw the entire incident. He told DigMB that the fisherman was struggling with the shark for nearly 45 minutes after first hooking it around 8:30 a.m, attracting a crowd on the pier.

Martin, well aware that killing great whites is illegal, watched, too, and planned to cut the shark loose if the fisherman was successful reeling it in. He has done so before.

Instead, a pack of ocean distance swimmers approached the pier from the south side while the hooked shark struggled. Unwittingly, they swam right into the fight. Martin says people on the pier screamed to the swimmers before the attack, urging them away, but the swimmers did not see or hear their warnings.

Then, one swimmer stopped suddenly and called out, “Ow! Something bit me!”

Local surfers Jake Kaiser and Lance Nelson, each 13, were in the water very nearby and witnessed the incident. They told DigMB about it.

Nelson said that before the bite, he saw "something that looked like a shark" in the water, but thought it was a dolphin and paid little attention. Then he noticed people "chucking chum off the bottom of the pier" in an effort to attract and "reel in" what he realized was a shark. But the shark, a "baby" around 6 feet long, according to Nelson, "just kept swimming away," until "it swam over to the swimmers."

"It was hooked on the line," said Jake, "then the swimmers intersected with it." At that point the shark followed its instincts, he said, "by biting what was next to [it]."

Martin said the shark's actions were either a "response bite" or "provoked attack," saying sharks will constantly open and shut their mouths when hooked as a response, or if agitated enough, will be provoked to attack. 

As Jake and Lance saw surfers and paddleboarders respond to help the swimmer, they rushed out of the water to get lifeguards' attention. 

The swimmer "looked pretty beaten up," Jake said. He was in shock and "really upset. He couldn't say his first name. But he was still conscious."

Lance told DigMB that the boys have noticed fishermen "chumming" the water by the pier in the past, evidently to attract sharks. They said they have reported the activity, hoping to put a stop to it before someone got hurt.

Both teens love surfing and said they'll go right back out whenever the water is reopened.

"The reason I feel safe in these waters," Kaiser said, "is how LA County lifeguards responded, and the whole community responded – responded very well – and I was really appreciative of that."

When lifeguards reopen the beach, Kaiser said, "I'm going to start shredding."

The great white is legally protected in California's Fish and Game code, with the California Sportfishing Regulations booklet instructing that great white sharks may not be taken by fishermen, including those with a sport fishing license. In addition, commercial fishing operations may not target them, either.

Sightings of mostly juvenile white sharks have become common around Manhattan Beach, with some incidents captured on video by paddleboarders and others.

Los Angeles County Lifeguards say the man is in stable condition. They closed the beach for one mile north and south of the Manhattan Beach Pier until the afternoon. The pier was closed, too.

By mid-afternoon Saturday, a busy holiday crowd swarmed the sand, but the full stretch of Manhattan Beach's coastline was empty of swimmers. Lifeguards patrolled along the break, warning people out of the water if they went in more than ankle-deep. 

DigMB asked one lifeguard what he is saying to swimmers. "I tell them there was a shark attack," the guard said. "They get it pretty quick."

Two teens tell DigMB about the shark incident.

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