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Coastal panel to debate barriers for La Jolla beach seals

July 11, 2012 |  7:21 am

The California Coastal Commission is set Wednesday to discuss the controversial issue of seals lounging on the beach at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla.

The commission meeting in Chula Vista will consider a request by the San Diego City Council to permit a year-round rope barrier to be placed near the seals to keep humans away from the marine mammals.

The city erects a barrier in pupping season from mid-December to mid-May. But pro-seal activists insist a year-round barrier is needed to keep people from harassing the seals at the only rookery south of Santa Barbara County.

The issue of people versus seals at the horseshoe-shaped beach has flared since the seals, for reasons of their own, decided to make the beach their home in the early 1990s. The Coastal Commission staff has recommended in favor of the year-round barrier, which would restrict, although not eliminate, access to the water by swimmers and divers.

Opponents of the barrier say the presence of the seals is depriving children and adults of a breakwater-protected  beach and a tranquil access to the ocean. Hundreds submitted letters and petitions to the commission.

“I am against the seals staying because they are a huge disturbance,” wrote San Diego resident Nicole Gregory.  “They pollute the beach by going to the bathroom.… Make sure that the kids of La Jolla get their beach back.”

But Bryan Pease, attorney for the La Jolla Friends of the Seals, said he is confident the commission will heed the City Council’s request. The group has sued the city to demand greater protection for the seals.

“There would not be much good to even having a Coastal Act if it could be used to prevent cities from taking reasonable steps to protect wildlife and public safety,” Pease said.


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Photo: Seals and people on the beach at Children's Pool in La Jolla. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times