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Fishermen not 'chumming' on pier before shark attack, witness says

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Fishermen who hooked a shark that then bit a swimmer were using baited lines, not chumming, witness says

A great white shark that bit a swimmer near Manhattan Beach Pier on Saturday was not attracted to the area by chumming, according to an aquarium director who witnessed the incident.

Three fishermen were using baited fishing lines thrown from the pier, said Eric Martin, co-director of the Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium, located at the end of the pier. The fishermen had not been casting chum into the ocean, he said.

The juvenile predator had been hooked for at least 30 minutes when it bit and injured a long-distance swimmer in its struggle to get free, said Martin and one of the fishermen who battled the shark, estimated at seven to 10 feet long. 

The actions of the fishermen became an issue after rumors spread that they had been chumming to lure sharks toward the pier. 

"Chumming is when you go get a chum bucket full of bloody fish guts and food," Martin said. "You throw it off a boat or pier. The scent of it gets stirred around for miles and attracts sharks."

While chumming is legal, it could be unwise in an area where people are swimming and surfing, Martin noted.

Injured swimmer Steven Robles, 50, a South Bay realtor, told KABC that the shark "came from the bottom of the water. It came up to the surface, it looked at me and attacked me right on the side of my chest."

"That all happened within two seconds," Robles added. "I saw the eyes of the shark as I was seeing it swim towards me. It lunged at my chest, and it locked into my chest."

Robles said he grabbed the shark by the nose and pried its mouth open. The shark then disappeared. 

Others in the water helped Robles to shore. 

Robles, who was rushed to the hospital for treatment, suffered a bite wound on the right side of his rib cage.

Aquarium director Martin, who said he rushed down to the beach, also saw what looked like a cut from the fishing line on Robles' hand.  

Authorities at the scene concluded that the fishermen had done nothing illegal, said Inspector Rick Flores\ of the L.A. County Fire Department, which manages the lifeguard division.

The pier is closed to fishing until Tuesday, but the beach is open for swimmers.

Twitter: @howardblume 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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