Heal the Bay: Shark Pier Angler Education
In 2014, a white shark hooked by a pier angler bit a swimmer in Manhattan Beach. In response, the City of Manhattan Beach and other local municipalities with piers along the Santa Monica Bay have been considering potential pier fishing regulations and restrictions. These cities are receiving pressure from community members and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to prohibit pier fishing. In response, Manhattan Beach enacted a temporary 60-day pier fishing prohibition beginning.
Heal the Bay understands the need for action, however they oppose closing piers to fishing. Piers are one of the only places where people can fish without a license in California, resulting in high numbers of subsistence anglers due to the low cost and easy access. Heal the Bay is concerned about the environmental justice issues presented by such prohibitions. Heal the Bay believes further education is urgently needed to facilitate responsible pier fishing, improved human-wildlife interactions, and a balance across human uses along piers, rather than simply prohibiting pier fishing, which will advance serious unintended consequences for subsistence anglers in the Los Angeles region. In response, Heal the Bay has been actively working with local municipalities to implement a pier and sport angler shark ambassador program about local shark ecology; protected species; fishing regulations (e.g. size and catch limits); ways to prevent catching unwanted species and if caught, how to handle them responsibly. Santa Monica Bay is home to dozens of shark and ray species. Juvenile great white sharks are seasonal residents of Southern California’s coastal waters, likely congregating in Santa Monica Bay in summer months due to a mixture of abundant prey and warm water. White shark numbers in the Northeastern Pacific are unknown, but are thought to be low, with estimates ranging from the hundreds to thousands of individuals. So, it is imperative that negative human-wildlife interactions are minimized with this species, especially in the Santa Monica Bay. This ambassador program may help reduce the occurrence of anglers that are intentionally pursuing white sharks on piers, with a dedicated pier presence.
Heal the Bay is partnering with the California Fish and Game Commission to convene and lead a stakeholder group to develop management recommendations to inform a long-term solution to reduce conflict among sensitive species and users at piers along the Santa Monica Bay. This stakeholder group involves management agencies and key stakeholders in this effort, including relevant local municipalities, lifeguards, aquaria, angler groups, and relevant state agencies. Deliverables will include a draft pier management strategy; a grant report reflecting on the stakeholder group approach to reducing conflict among users and wildlife on piers; and a brief report on the complementary pier angler education effort including the number of anglers reached, demographic information, and educational materials used in outreach.