A great white shark was hooked by an angler on the Manhattan Beach Pier Tuesday, and released after the fisherman realized he had a protected species on his line.
The shark was an estimated 8-9 feet, said Eric Martin, marine biologist and director of located at the end of the MB Pier, about 2-4 feet longer than a great white caught off the pier in early July. Martin happened to be on the pier talking with a police officer when the shark was hooked.
Unlike the July incident, in which the fisherman apparently wanted to keep his catch, prompting commotion and calls to police, the angler willingly let Martin cut the line to release the shark after Martin took some photos of it.
Martin said he was pleased to be able to capture the quintessential shark shot: one in which its mouth is wide open. He was able to gauge the shark's size when it passed under a swimmer, who was about 6 feet.
"The shark went under the swimmer," said Martin, "and he had no idea the shark swam underneath him. He kept right on swimming."
For Martin, this great white shark experience was without the chaos of July's. "This is such a happy time," Martin reflected. "Look, the guy got to fight a great white, get pictures, and the shark was set free."
The experience began as he chatted on the pier with a police officer and noticed a "guy hook something really big" around 4:45 p.m. The angler was "fighting" whatever was on his line and Martin assumed it was a bat ray.
About 5 to 10 minutes later, "The guy yells, 'Hey,' and I see the tail of a shark," said Martin, thinking to himself, "This can't be another great white."
Martin yelled for his two co-workers, grabbed his camera and leaped into action, taking photos as the shark swirled in the water below.
After taking the photos, Martin told the fisherman he was going to cut the line and the angler said, "Go ahead."
"You could see the shark swimming free," said Martin. "I really wanted to absorb it [the experience] in a really happy way. The great white is such a beautiful fish."
Martin said the Santa Monica Bay is a nursery for baby great whites who feed on fish.
Since 1994, great white sharks have been a protected species in California. The unlawful taking and possession of one is a misdemeanor, with penalties that include large fines and jail time.