For the second time in two months a great white shark was hooked on a Southern California pier, and for the second time a marine biologist working on the pier persuaded the angler to cut the line rather than attempt to haul the predator out of the water. Eric Martin, director of the Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium at the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier, said the shark hooked Tuesday afternoon (pictured in this story) was 8 to 9 feet long. The angler had been fishing for bat rays and at first wanted to haul up his amazing catch.
Hooking white sharks is rare, especially from a pier, and many anglers are not aware that the species is protected in California waters. Killing them is against the law.
Martin was able to get this point across to the angler, who was not identified. “He actually kept it on the line long enough that I was able to click off a few photos,” Martin said. “Then I told him I am cutting the line [and] he said, ‘Go ahead!’ I also told him I will give him some photos. He was really happy then. So I guess the main thing was everybody came out ahead. The guy got to fight a great white shark. I got my photos, and the shark was free.”
Martin added: “I have to say one thing that was funny: Seconds after the shark was set free a swimmer swam right in front of the shark and the shark went under the swimmer and the swimmer had no idea what just swam under him.”
It was a far more tense situation when an angler reeled up a smaller white shark from the same pier in early July. That angler was determined to send down a gaff and haul the shark up, and a heated argument ensued. Martin ended up calling the police and only then did the angler consent to let Martin cut the line.
“I had the phone in my hand while we were arguing,” Martin said. “I was shaking because it was so tense.”
Juvenile white sharks utilize Southern California coastal waters as a nursery area. They feed mostly on small fishes and rays, and they’re very rarely hooked by anglers. They’re not considered particularly dangerous to surfers and swimmers until they reach about 12 feet and start preying on seals and sea lions.
Martin said he sometimes sees juvenile white sharks close to surfers.
In August of 2011 a white shark was hauled onto Huntington Beach Pier, in Orange County, and the angler fell under investigation by the California Department of Fish and Game.
– Images showing white shark hooked Tuesday from the Manhattan Beach Pier are courtesy of Eric Martin
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