Swimmer bitten by shark has no insurance, mounting medical bills

A swimmer bitten by a shark off the Manhattan Beach pier spoke out Tuesday night as the city debated whether to ban fishing in the area.

The Manhattan Beach City Council late Tuesday took steps toward declaring a state of emergency and public nuisance along the shore, a move that would give officials more time to consider regulations on fishing from the city’s pier.

More than 20 people spoke during the public comment period of the council meeting, echoing ongoing debate ignited when a long-distance swimmer was bitten by a juvenile great white shark July 5. It’s believed the shark was thrashing to free itself from a fisherman’s line when it bit Steven Robles, 50, in the side not far from the pier.

Robles, a real estate broker from Lomita, also addressed the council. He said he blames the fisherman who had hooked the shark and kept it on the line for 40 minutes before the attack, probably agitating it. He called the debate surrounding fishing at the pier complicated, but added: “Reckless behavior has to be penalized.”


He was apparently referring to video of the incident that shows some people on the pier seemingly making light of swimmers’ close encounters with the shark. Robles’ apparent screams can be heard on the recording, at which point onlookers on the pier yelled warnings to surfers and swimmers to get out of the water.

Robles continues to recover from his injuries and had more stitches removed from his abdomen Monday. He said he has no health insurance and is facing large medical bills.

Officials acknowledged that the city did not have the authority to unilaterally impose a permanent fishing ban, citing a provision in the state Constitution that protects fishing. Council members said such a ban would involve multiple agencies and require state-level action.

The city had already banned fishing on the pier for 60 days beginning July 7. Once set, the state of emergency declaration would give city officials up to 60 days to discuss and eventually present proposed regulations to the council. Potential local regulations discussed Tuesday included banning metal or braided lines as well as prohibiting fish cleaning and chumming from the pier.


Twitter: @debbietruong

Times staff writer Christine Mai-Duc contributed to this report.