A plan to limit fishing on the Seal Beach Pier hit some rough water Monday after city staff determined an agreement with the state forbids the city to place restrictions on the longstanding tradition.
A decades-old funding agreement with the state effectively handcuffs the city from banning fishing on the pier. Nevertheless, city leaders are looking for ways to tackle the problem of fish guts and scales encrusted on the wooden pier.
“The City is required to maintain safety and sanitary conditions,” said Councilman Mike Levitt. “There’s absolutely nothing sanitary about a guy who’s out there spreading his fish all over the pier, and he’s spreading fish guts everywhere.”
In a 1983 deal, the state Department of Fish and Game helped pay to rebuild the pier after a destructive storm while also prohibiting any kind of restrictions on fishing except when they are necessary to protect and repair the pier or protect the public safety, according to a staff report.
City officials have urged staff to investigate potential new fishing rules on the pier. Supporters argue new restrictions will help keep the longtime Seal Beach landmark clean and safe. Opponents argue that fishing is a local tradition and prohibitions would decrease the number of people coming into the city to spend money. However, despite the terms of the agreement, city staff said there are some options for dealing with anglers who don’t obey current city laws.
Some of the actions include
- Upping the number of volunteer police patrols that would monitor the pier for littering, smoking and overhead casting
- Increasing the number of bait stations on the pier, so that fishermen can have more places to clean their gear and gut their catches.
- Adding more signs reminding people of the rules of the pier.
- “I’m not trying to eliminate fishing totally,” said Mayor Gary Miller. “I just want them (fishermen) to share the pier.”
In November, Mayor Pro Tem Ellery Deaton asked staff to research placing limitations on the practice such as creating specific fishing times, specific areas for fishing or issuing citations for anglers who break the rules. After the Monday meeting, Deaton said she’s pleased with staff’s work on the issue. “I’m really happy with what we’re doing,” Deaton said after the meeting. She added that the city’s actions will help keep the pier clean and safe. “That’s all we want — a safe location for everyone,” Deaton added.
According to a staff report, on March 2, 1983, a storm destroyed the center section of the Seal Beach pier. The city entered a 25-year agreement with the Department of Fish and Game on December 12, 1983. In 2007, the city renewed the agreement to help fund the replacement of the surface decking over most of the pier. Council members asked the city attorney to investigate and see if fishing could be restricted on public safety grounds. The agreement might allow Seal Beach to limit the practice as long as it’s on public safety grounds, according to Quinn Barrow, city attorney.