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San Diego mayor declines to declare emergency over seals on La Jolla beach

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders on Thursday declined to issue an emergency declaration that could have led to immediately restoring a rope barrier to keep people away from seals at the Children's Pool beach in La Jolla.

Instead, Sanders suggested that a permit be sought from the California Coastal Commission, which will allow for the issue to be studied and opposing viewpoints heard. The City Council had urged Sanders to declare the emergency.

For several years, the city has maintained a rope barrier from Dec. 15 to May 15 to protect the seals during the pupping season. But after the rope came down this year, seal defenders alleged that the seals and their young were being harassed by tourists and others.

The issue of the seals at the horseshoe-shaped beach has been an emotional, litigious and political controversy for more than a decade. For reasons of their own, the harbor seals arrived in the 1990s and created a rookery where generations of San Diego-area residents had once picnicked and lounged.

Opposing factions -- one calling for protection of the seals, another demanding the seals be shooed away so people can use more of the beach -- have filed legal actions. A federal court has ruled that the seals have to be protected, but a state court said that the beach is primarily for use by people.

To break the legal deadlock, city officials, increasingly weary of the controversy and the mounting legal bills, received approval from the state Legislature to turn the beach into a marine mammal sanctuary. But the details of how to do that have led to more wrangling.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: A boy watches the seals from the breakwater.

Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (5)

Those poor seals. I love them so much and it just breaks my heart that they get harassed. They look so cute. Reminds me of poor bambi's mother.

Kyle Parker
-Malibu, California

Seems easy enough to solve. While the politicians dither and scratch their behinds, the seal people should patrol the area in pairs and shoo away the bores who annoy the seals and their pups, and call the police whenever they need back-up. That should discourage the louts who are animal abusers.

Jeeze, what the big deal? Like there's not enough beaches in San Diego for humans to use. This beach is so small, you couldn't fit 20 parties comfortably on its sand! Those seals are one of the main attractions for tourists in La Jolla...If you 'shoo them away', you shoo away a lot of tourists with them! If you take down the rope, some brazen tourists WILL harass the seals. Leave the rope in place, and go use one of the hundred other beaches!

Leave the seals alone; they hav a right to that beach. People should go find another beach, there are plenty of them.

Is common sense creeping back into the thought process at City Hall? This is the correct decision by Mayor Sanders to not make up an emergency where none exists. The seals are just fine without ropes or babysitters constantly watching over them. The Mayor and council should rethink closing the Children's Pool as is proposed. A year round rope is just idiotic and without justification and the Coastal Commission will likely stop the illegal five month complete closure of Children's Pool.

What the council must do is develop a true management plan that takes into account all users of the Children’s Pool and not just the seal spectators. This plan may require the reduction of the seal population by discouragement or relocation if necessary. This would allow the beach and surrounding water to return to a clean, unpolluted condition suitable for human use as well as a sustainable seal population.

The proposed new ordinance would grant superiority to one hastily added provision to the amended Trust. The amendment only adds a marine mammal park to the existing traditional uses for Children’s Pool but did not supercede or extinguish those original uses. The Children’s Pool is a man made swimming pool intended for human use. Every proposed action by the Council will have the effect of limiting human use and favoring the exclusive use by seals and seal watchers in violation of the terms of the Children’s Pool Trust.

The eco-terrorists harassing families and swimmers at Children's Pool beach need to be roped off away from civilized people using their beach. It seems Councilmember Donna Frye would sell her soul to get her way and prohibit the people of San Diego from enjoying their beach. Now that Frye is about to be termed out of office we can expect a doomsday plan by some city council members to take form. A "crisis" here and an "emergency" there. Shortcuts to the legal processes to close the pool. Foolishness that warrants removal from office.

The people of San Diego need to watch what the council is up to and demand access to all our beaches. The seal activists call anything an emergency and yell and scream to get attention for an issue that has no merit . One can only speculate why the City Council is so intent on closing the beach using this unlawful plan.

It's pretty obvious why the seal population has increased so much in La Jolla. So many were placed in the vicinity of Children's Pool after a short stay with Sea World, with the hope they would colonize Seal Rock just outside Children's Pool. They found nicer digs and moved into the Children's Pool. Not a surprise they took advantage of Sea World and the City Council’s misguided management policy from the 1990's. But problems exist and as we consider solutions we must realize there are only so many seals that this area can accommodate before they have a negative impact on other marine resources and humans. We could manage the seal population. We have foolishly chosen not to with the resulting polluted, overpopulated Children's Pool and beach where humans are to be discouraged and harassed endlessly by the self appointed seal guardians.

The original immature seals that were rescued and released by Sea World were imprinted on humans as they were rehabilitated for release. The adult rehab seals also picked up a few bad habits. They live in the wild and are successful but they are no longer truly wild with the acquired behaviors from their brief captivity.

The rescued seals learned that humans were somehow a source of food and shelter and those who survived their release back to the wild took those behaviors with them. No doubt their lack of a normal level of wariness of humans was passed on to their offspring and other wild seals as they began moving into Children’s Pool in ever increasing numbers. The seal polluted beach caused closure during that time and the unwarranted extreme protection given these seals also contributed to the entire population of seals becoming habituated to humans. Devoted but misguided seal protection vigilantes also threw in an unhealthy dose of seal coddling. Did we miss giving cute names to any of the pups born this year?

The transitory seal population as described in the Signon SD article does not need the Children’s Pool for survival. If five hundred seals have used the beach at Children’s Pool at one time or another and only approximately two hundred maximum at any one time are on the beach, then the other three hundred seem to be faring just fine without the Children’s Pool Beach. There really are other places the seals can use. So far the seals and seal lions have segregated themselves to the Children’s Pool and La Jolla Cove. Increased competition for food and shelter will cause both beaches to be occupied by their growing population before long. Are we really ready to surrender our two most beautiful recreational beaches to the seals? We should not; we don’t need to.

The seals will be just fine without permitting exclusive use of those beaches.
There is an unnatural comfort level with human interaction brought back to the general population of seals with unintended and unwanted results.

I would like nothing more than for the balance to be restored at Children’s Pool. However the seal protection side will hear none of it. They have made it their religion to secure exclusive use of the Children’s Pool for the seals. Humans be damned in their quest to protect a population of seals that are in no way threatened or endangered here in La Jolla or anywhere else in their range. So yes, we may again need to correct this imbalance at Children’s Pool using the courts to maintain public access to a public beach.

The City Council chose to ignore the problems at the pool even after being repeatedly ordered by the courts to manage the Children’s Pool in accordance with the Tidelands Trust. The council shows no sign that they have learned from their past experience and have deep pockets of taxpayer money to try to force a marine mammal park into a swimming pool built and dedicated for use by human children and their families. The intended use for this small sliver of man made beach could not be more obvious and carried with it the rule of law in it’s designation. Too bad politics got in the way and laws were ignored. The amendment to the Tidelands Trust only added Marine Mammal Park to the original uses. It did not supercede or replace the original uses.

Result: Chaos at Children’s Pool.

We have the opportunity to correct past mistakes and restore the natural balance of the La Jolla coastline by managing the seal population. We soon will need to do the same for the seal lions as they move further into the La Jolla Cove with the encouragement of seal religionists and their supporters on the City Council.


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