In an interview given to CBS Los Angeles this past Sunday, avid open-water swimmer and unfortunate Manhattan Beach shark attack victim Steven Robles, with his arm in a sling, revealed the marks left by the surprising encounter with a seven-foot White shark . The juvenile shark had apparently been caught on a fishing line of longtime fisherman Jason Hagemann for nearly 30 to 45 minutes before Robles and his group of 14 regulars swam by the pier at around 9:30 a.m.
“The shark came right up to me, bit right into my torso area. He penetrated the first layer of my skin and into my fat tissue,” Robles said. “And somehow I had enough sense to grab his nose with my right hand and pry him off my body.”
“The whole attack happened really fast. I saw him swimming from underneath and he surfaced really quick, made a very sharp left and then lunged right at me. I was starting at the shark face-to-face, looking at his eyeballs as he bit right into me.”
His fellow swimmers and a nearby stand up paddler helped get Robles onto the surfer’s longboard and took him to shore.
Officials say that it was unusual for a White shark to have been so close to shore. And while there were reports that the shark was lured by chum (bloody fish parts), those reports have been denied by both Hagemann as well as Eric Martin, the co-director of Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium, which is located at the end of the pier. Police patrolling the area also said that they did not see any activity of the kind. The fisherman instead claimed that he was using only a small sardine as bait with the intention of hooking a Bat Ray.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which regulates the waters up to three miles offshore, has prohibited the taking of White sharks since 1994. Once a fisherman identifies a catch as a White, law states that the fisherman must immediately cut it loose. However, Hagemann kept the shark on, claiming that he was worried for the safety of surfers and swimmers in the area. In an effort to distance the shark from them, he attempted to lead it towards the end of the pier.
In response to hearing what exactly happened, Robles condemned the fisherman’s actions: “It was a horrible decision that this fisherman made, thinking he was going to go catch a shark and drew all that attention. He had that shark on his fishing pole for 40 minutes, from what I hear, and by the time he cut that line loose I was in the wrong spot at the wrong time. The shark was agitated and I was the first thing it saw.”
The fisherman will not be cited, fined, or otherwise punished, but all fishing from the Manhattan Beach pier has been suspended for 60 days, an extension from the initial ban lasting only through July 8. During the longer ban, city officials plan to consult with regulatory agencies such as the State Coastal Commission to evaluate the impact of pier fishing on public safety. And PETA has called to make the fishing ban permanent.
As for the backlash from the internet with regard to a video that saw him and his friends laughing?
“People think we were having fun with it but that’s not what was going on,” Hagemann told the Daily Breeze. “We didn’t believe the shark was that close to them. At first, no one thought he got bit. We thought he just got scared. As soon as we realized he got bit, the mood changed.”
The area from the Manhattan Beach Pier to El Porto has seen an influx of White sharks in the last decade. The Manhattan Beach area is the perfect breeding ground as the water is warm and there is a plethora of food for the animals, from sting rays to other ground-eating fish.