MOUNT SHASTA – While the city of Manhattan Beach did not have the authority to place a permanent ban on pier fishing, staff and council members from Hermosa Beach formally reached out to the California Fish and Game Commission seeking guidance on enacting certain prohibitions against anglers at its pier at an Oct. 8 meeting.
At the meeting held in Mount Shasta, the California Fish and Game Commission held off making any decisions on Hermosa Beach’s request. The commission’s Marine Resources Commission will discuss Hermosa Beach’s draft ordinance to prohibit certain fishing activities on the city’s pier at its Nov. 5 meeting in Los Alamitos.
The issue of banning pier fishing in two neighboring South Bay cities arose after a 7-foot white shark attacked a swimmer near the Manhattan Beach Pier the morning of July 5. According to multiple news reports, the shark was “hooked” by an angler less than an hour earlier and tried to break free from the line.
Manhattan Beach’s City Council approved an emergency 60-day ban on pier fishing on July 7. A permanent ban on pier fishing would require the involvement of state agencies, particularly because the Manhattan Beach Pier is owned by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Further, regulation of fishing activity and gear has been an action exclusively reserved with state agencies and legislators since 1902.
While Fish and Game commissioners noted Manhattan Beach city officials have backed off of its ban on pier fishing, Hermosa Beach reached out to the agency seeking guidance on enacting an ordinance similar to regulations its neighbors to the north hoped to ratify.
In a Sept. 11 letter to Fish and Game Commissioner Executive Director Sonke Mastrup, Hermosa Beach Fire Chief David Lantzer proposed several prohibitions to help address pier fishing concerns in the South Bay city.
“They are asking us to fix the regulations. We have to actually dive in and decide what’s really the underlying problem here and what are the appropriate changes, if any, to rules,” Mastrup said.
According to a statement issued in August, Hermosa Beach Pier experienced an influx of fishing activity after Manhattan Beach adopted its emergency ban.
Lantzer stated in his letter that Hermosa Beach, like its neighboring city in Manhattan Beach, hoped to craft policy maintaining everyday access to the pier while minimizing “the possibility of an inadvertent hooking of a white shark.”
Specifically, Lantzer said he and his colleagues wanted to avoid any incidents of a white shark inadvertently hooked by an angler from the Hermosa Pier.
A draft ordinance was included with Lantzer’s letter, outlining changes to city law to regulate pier fishing.
Five prohibitions were listed in the proposed law, including bans against cleaning fish on the pier, throwing debris from the pier, the use of more than two hooks per line, un-baited hooks and anything other than a monofilament line.
Anglers at Hermosa Beach Pier are already prohibited from throwing bait from the pier and overhead casting. Each angler is limited to two lines.
The city informed anglers it is considering regulations prohibiting snag lines, chumming, fish cleaning on the pier and any use of braided, steel, metal or non-monofilament lines.
In August, Michael Sutton, president of the Fish and Game Commission, wrote a letter to Manhattan Beach Mayor Amy Thomas
Howorth addressing that city’s emergency ban. Sutton requested the emergency ban be lifted and the City Council “postpone any action concerning fishing gear restrictions and/or other legal fishing practices.”
Reminding Manhattan Beach of the state’s regulatory powers, Sutton also told Howorth in his letter that the city’s pier fishing ban would have unintended consequences on certain protected groups.
“The Commission is concerned that banning or otherwise restricting pier fishing would disproportionately impact the disabled, subsistence fishers, and minorities,” Sutton said.
At the Oct. 8 Fish and Game Commission meeting, Commissioner Richard B. Rogers pondered whether the pier fishing ban in Manhattan Beach was more than a safety regulation but also socially motivated.
“I think there is a social issue involved here. [There are] people on the strand who are all now multimillionaires. Those houses are worth millions,” Rogers, a one-time Manhattan Beach resident, said. “The people on the pier aren’t so tony. They come from a mile or two or three or four inland of Manhattan Beach. I’m accusing Manhattan Beach of maybe having a reason for stopping fishing on the pier that they are not willing to talk about.”
Rogers added he wanted Manhattan Beach’s civic leaders and city staff to present to the commission any information they have to justify a permanent ban on pier fishing.
“So far they have been very reluctant to [present information]. They don’t respond to letters. They are very reluctant to even engage,” Rogers said. “I think they are fighting their own little political battle. They are completely wrong, legally. There is something else going on here and it doesn’t have a darn thing to do with fishing on that pier.”
Marko Mlikotin, executive director of the California Sportsfishing League, similarly told commissioners a ban on pier fishing would have a negative social impact.
“These illegal, overly costly and onerous regulations will disproportionately impact minority and low-income Californians who rely on pier fishing for a source of affordable recreation and nutritious food,” Mlikotin wrote.