Photo credit: Terry Goss

A great white shark at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico. Photo credit: Terry Goss (Click to enlarge)

It’s a case of man hooks shark, shark bites man. Of course it’s all the shark’s fault, right?

On Saturday, a fisherman on the Manhattan Beach Pier hooked a shark. What happened next made national news – as a shark attacking a swimmer. Here are some of the recent headlines:

Shark attacks swimmer near Manhattan Beach Pier” – LA Times
Shark bites swimmer off California beach” – USA Today
California swimmer bitten by great white shark” –
Great white shark bites man near Southern Calif. beach” – FOX
“Chilling Screams: Great White Shark Attack” – The Blaze

It’s even on the Mail Online from England:
Swimmer mauled by SEVEN FOOT great white shark

In reality, the highly agitated and distressed 7-10 foot long shark (as estimated by county lifeguards) was being reeled in through a group swimmers just offshore and ended up biting a swimmer while being dragged toward the pier. A 40-year-old man in his upper right torso, and fortunately he’s in stable condition and expected to make a full recovery.

See it for yourself, from the fisherman’s point of vide. Here’s the video, taken from the pier and the fisherman reels it in (parental advisory for language):

Notably, in the video you can hear the people on the pier laughing hysterically as they bring the shark to the surface and it scares the swimmers. 

The fisherman eventually cut the line and a surfer put the injured swimmer on his board, taking him ashore with the help of Los Angeles County lifeguards. Paramedics treated the man and transported him to thHarbor-UCLA Medical Center. The beaches remained open, but a mile-long stretch was temporarily off-limits to swimmers. Police also temporarily closed to pier to everyone and prohibited fishing from the pier until Tuesday as a precaution.

It’s illegal to specifically fish for white sharks, however to be fair, the fisherman who caught it was most likely fishing for other catch when the shark grabbed his bait. Fishing is legal from the pier and a popular activity in the area where most try to catch pile perch, halibut or corvina. Anyone who takes a white shark without a permit may be cited for violations of CESA and subject to criminal prosecution.

Be sure to read:
Diving the Farallon Islands: Getting My Feet Wet with White Sharks
The Experience of a Lifetime: Watching Great White Sharks feed on a whale in Ventura
Tracking sevengill sharks in San Diego
Scuba Diving “Outside of the Box” – An uncaged dive with white sharks

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.

Self Defense

So we have to ask – was this really a “shark attack” as the headlines make it out to be? Of course not. It was an animal in fear for it’s life, being dragged towards shore with a hook in its mouth, and pulled next to a swimmer. But you’ll never read that in the headlines, of course.

Shark attacks are of course extremely rare. Since 1950, there have been a total of 101 great white shark attacks on humans off California, and only 13 of them resulted in deaths (from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife). From 2000-2009, there were 34 shark attacks on scuba divers, and approximately 7 deaths (source).  With millions of dives during that time, the odds of being attacked by a shark are far less than being stuck by lightning while driving to the dive site.

The pier at Manhattan Beach.