Sebastian council supports ban on chumming water for sharks

SEBASTIAN – The City of Sebastian does not have any Atlantic beaches but that isn’t stopping the council from supporting other Oceanside cities’ bans on blood baiting and chumming the waters off public beaches.

“This is insane,” Mayor Richard Gillmor said of people fishing for sharks on beaches near sunbathers and swimmers. “And the county didn’t pass this. I mean, hello!”

The Sebastian City Council voted unanimously in favor of passing a resolution expressing its support of the City of Vero Beach and the Town of Indian River Shores, both of which already passed ordinance prohibiting baiting and chumming the waters for sharks.

Vice Mayor Jim Hill said that the resolution does not prohibit fishing and would not encroach on anglers’ rights.

Sebastian resident and candidate for the Sebastian City Council Harvey Wheeler disagreed.

“I think this is absolutely appalling,” he said of the resolution, adding that “ethical fishing” is one thing – at unguarded beaches.

Wheeler added that people should be allowed to fish, though he noted that baiting and chumming the waters might not be a good idea.

“I don’t think it’s the smartest thing to do,” he said.

Fellow Sebastian resident Frank BiLotta commended the council for its support of banning the practice.

“I have to constantly think of the tourists,” he said, explaining that first-time Florida visitors might not be aware of the area’s unique ecology – including sharks and jelly fish.

The Sebastian City Council, at BiLotta’s behest, also approved drafting a resolution to send to the Board of County Commissioners to keep lifeguards stationed at Treasure Shores Beach.

BiLotta, earlier in the evening, had told the council that Treasure Shores is a beach he routinely takes visiting friends and family to, due to its proximity to the City of Sebastian.

“It’s our favorite,” BiLotta said.

He noted that the city probably receives some economic gain from that beach, as many people travel through Sebastian on US 1 and cut over the Wabasso Causeway to get to A1A and the beaches.

BiLotta also said that Treasure Shores Beach is the county’s only ADA compliant beach, is the third most popular in terms of usage, and was recently named the No. 2 beach in the state by a travel magazine.

“I think you’re preaching to the choir,” Mayor Gillmor told BiLotta after his address to the council.

Councilwoman Andrea Coy suggested to the council that they have staff draft the resolution to be signed at the next council meeting.

The council approved the recommendation unanimously. The resolution is due back before the City Council at the first meeting in September.

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