MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. - The director of the Manhattan Beach Pier's aquarium today knocked down reports that anglers had chummed the water with shark bait just before a fisherman hooked a 10 foot long great white shark, which then chomped and spat out a swimmer.
Officials said nothing illegal was done, and Aquarium Co-Director Eric Martin told the Los Angeles Times that he was there and saw no chumming Saturday morning.
The swimmer, Steven Robles, told reporters he suspected that chum had enticed the juvenile shark into an area crowded with swimmers, and said such an act was stupid. Robles is part of a group of open-ocean swimmers who regularly swim between piers in the South Bay.
Several newspapers and TV stations reported that witnesses accused the anglers of throwing chum (bloody fish parts) into the water, and using chum as bait on the line that temporarily hooked the shark.
But the fisherman involved denied he was chumming and said he only used a small sardine as bait, according to the CBS Los Angeles stations CBS2 and KCAL9. He or she were reportedly confronted by surfers who came out of the water after the bizarre incident.
The fisherman's version of events appears to be backed up by law enforcement, who shut down all fishing from the Manhattan Beach pier until at least July 8, but said the fisherman had done nothing illegal, according to KCAL9/CBS2.
`For what we fish for, there is no need to chum,'' the unidentified fisherman told KCAL9/CBS2. ``The fish are already there.`They're not attracted to blood. The fish we're fishing for have nothing to do with it.''
Chum or no, fishing has been banned from the pier for the next few days.
Robles told CNN and other TV stations he was still shaken up by his experience.
`I'm still rattled, my nerves are still shaky,'' the Realtor told CBS. Robles said he was still pretty sore and had tightness in his chest and no feeling in his right thumb.
``The shark came right up to me, bit right into my torso area,'' Robles said. ``He penetrated the first layer of my skin and into my fat tissue.
Somehow I had enough sense to grab his nose with my right hand and pry him off my body.
``For a second, I thought this might be it,'' Robles continued. ``I was absolutely terrified. I never thought I would die in the ocean.''
Robles also told CBS he was a trained long-distance swimmer and had swam 20 miles from Catalina Island to Palos Verdes last year. At the time of the attack, he said, he was with a group of 14 swimmers who swim there every Saturday morning.
Robles also said he believed he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Robles said he felt the fisherman who hooked the shark had made a ``horrible decision, thinking he was going to go catch a shark and accrue all that attention.''
Robles said he was told the fisherman had the shark on his pole for 40 minutes and when he was finally cut loose, the shark was agitated and ``I was the first thing it saw.''
Robles also believes he is lucky to still be alive. ``I'm very thankful God was on my side protecting me. I truly believe God was may savior today.''
The shark, estimated by county lifeguards to be 10 feet long, bit Robles in his upper right torso and then spat him out, County Fire Inspector Rick Flores said after the Saturday attack. Robles had stable life signs and moderate injuries, and was bleeding but conscious and talking to paramedics as he was loaded into an ambulance among weekend beachgoers on The Strand just south of the pier.
A popular stretch of beach one mile north and south of the pier was closed to swimming, as a county helicopter ordered people out of the 69-degree water on a holiday weekend. It was reopened shortly after 3 p.m.
About 20 minutes after the bite, the Manhattan Beach police Department brought in the sheriff's Aero Bureau for help in locating the shark, said Sgt. Morrie Zager of the sheriff's Aero Bureau.
A chopper crew located the great white about 200 yards north of the Manhattan Pier, Zager said. Deputies directed a lifeguard boat and a Redondo Beach Harbor Patrol boat to the shark, Zager said.
``A paddle boarder was directed away from the shark by the boat crews,'' the sheriff's sergeant said. ``After approximately 30 minutes, the boats were able to coax the shark out deeper water and away from the pier.''