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Proposal to Protect Seals at La Jolla Children’s Pool

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Photo from 'ginsnob' via Flickr

Photo from 'ginsnob' via Flickr

For over a decade, the La Jolla Children’s Pool has been “a battleground for pro-access and wildlife advocacy groups.” The Children’s Pool—separated from the surf by a wall, creating calm waters in the artificial cove—has become the home for a controversially located seal colony since the 1990s.

The pro-access groups want the beach to be restored to what it would have looked like in 1941: more sanitary (seal feces have created unsafe bacteria levels in the water) and with fewer seals, so the beach can be primarily used by children, swimmers and snorkelers—its original purpose when it was first established.

The pro-seal groups believe that scaring the seals away from their home at the Children’s Pool would be violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This cove, next to Seal Rock, has become somewhat of a sanctuary for the seals throughout the past two decades. Additionally, the seals have become a great attraction for many visitors.

There is also disagreement over who harasses whom—one side argues that the seals propose danger to humans, while the other claims that humans disturb the seals daily.

This long debate could be over if the San Diego City Council adopts a proposal prohibiting public access to the beach during the seals’ pupping (birthing) season, December 15 to May 15. The proposal allows shared use (between the seals and humans) during the rest of the year; however, a rope barrier would be present to encourage a safe distance from the seals. People are allowed to cross the rope to use the beach, but dogs would be banned from the beach year-round.

The proposal was forwarded to full City Council, and if it’s approved, the proposal would then be “submitted to the California Coastal Commission for final adoption,” according to The San Diego Union Tribune.

Since 2009, over 50 incidents of disturbing the peace have occurred at the Children’s Pool beach. Because of the two conflicting sides, specific rules are needed to regulate issue. Furthermore, May 15, the end of pupping season, is just around the corner and the city will need to decide whether the rope barrier stays up or comes down.

5 Comments

  1. beachaccess

    April 8, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Images of pro seal activists who illegally block access to the Children’s Pool public beach or harass beach users on the Children’s Pool beach are being compiled for a federal criminal reference list. Blocking or impeding access to a public beach or public right of way is a violation of federal civil rights of the public.

  2. Califia

    April 11, 2010 at 4:16 am

    The City’s management by inaction has led to the current state of chaos at the beach and invited lawsuits to force the city to act in accordance with the Trust. Still they did nothing. Former city leaders should be held accountable and the current council must correct the past mistakes by continuing the shared use policy while seeking to reduce the seal population in the Children’s Pool. Discourage the buildup of animals currently using the pool and relocate animals that have been permanently imprinted to humans to a natural environment far away from daily human contact. The Children’s Pool can then return to the former balance with a seal population that has a natural wariness of humans. Truly wild seals would not remain with the close proximity of people. Seals will remain in the general area but not at the polluting levels of overpopulation.

    A shared use plan without reducing seal populations still has people using the seal contaminated beach during the summer. Will the city clean the beach or allow it to be cleaned by volunteers to make it safe for human use during the summer? Or will the seal activist’s pro bono liar convince us that pollution from seal feces is a benefit to us all.

    The San Diego City Council did not react quickly enough to the overpopulation of seals caused by Sea World’s rehab and release program and the assumption of authority by the seal activists.

    How can it be that someone using a public beach has to worry about criminal prosecution for having been in the presence of a seal? If the seal takes notice of the person, lifts it’s head to look or returns to the ocean should we criminalize that persons actions? Under the strictest interpretation of the MMPA, that event would be a criminal violation for disturbing a marine mammal. This is an outrageous view of human conduct and a violation of human rights to interact with his or her environment.

    The definition of to “take” under the law was never intended to be so strictly interpreted. Under this interpretation any contact between humans and marine mammals could be considered harassment. The bureaucrats at NOAA need apply some common sense in giving advice and interpretation of the MMPA. The San Diego City Council, by accepting this specious argument and the accompanying delays, has been a major component of the Children’s Pool problem.

    The use of a man made pool, Children’s Pool built for human use, while seals are present can hardly be considered harassment of seals. Yet many people have been intimidated away from using the Children’s Pool by self appointed seal babysitters. There are lots of places the seals can move to if they were ever to feel threatened by the human activity at the Children’s Pool.

    There are secluded coves and sheltered beaches up and down the San Diego coastline that are very hard for people to access and are available to the seals. The fact that most seals flee humans is normal and should not come with the threat of criminal prosecution or physical assault to someone using a public beach. Any seals that have lost their natural fear of humans should be relocated to more secluded areas to allow the remaining seals to restore the natural balance of human/seal interactions.

    The overzealous attempt to ban people from Children’s Pool by the pro seal activists should be exposed for the crime that it is. They should be moved away from the Children’s Pool area until they learn to behave and respect the rights of all beach users. The constant harassment and intimidation by this group should never be tolerated and will lead to increasing problems as people resist their bullying.

    The evidence is clear that this problem was caused by the San Diego City Council’s many years of mis-management of the Children’s Pool. They did not react quickly enough to the overpopulation of seals caused by Sea World’s misguided rehabilitation and release program and the assumption of authority by the seal activists. They now have plenty guidance by the State and the courts on how to finally resolve the problems at the Children’s Pool.

    The seal activists will do anything to deny people legal access to Children’s Pool to save their open air pet shop. Given their way, all the seals will have cute names and people will have to wade through the sea of humanity at the La Jolla Cove to get to a sheltered ocean entry.

    Place no barriers to beach access at any time of the year. Continue the shared use policy, clean the beach and remove the pro seal / anti human terrorists.

  3. JC

    April 12, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    The children’s pool was created for human use so it only makes sense to keep it that way. I’m not an “animal ‘hater’ or ‘lover’ “, I just think that if the construction of the cove was funded for human use in the first place and it should continue to be used for what it was intended. Animal activists blocking off access to it should be seen as stepping over bounds.

    The lack of action to resolve this issue years ago has yielded its consequences. The question that needs to be answered is whether the unsafe water levels, over abundant amount of seals and “out of control” animal activist are worth dealing with in order to regain the children’s pool.

    I don’t see this “shared use” policy working out as well as politicians are making it sound. If there is to be shared usage, I think they should make it work so that the policy favors human access (reasons stated above).

    Although tourists and even myself may enjoy watching seals in a habitat outside of sea world, the children’s pool should be considered an environment designed for humans. Take the barrier down!

  4. Califia

    April 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Wildlife is managed throughout the world by selective removal and relocation of certain animals that cause a problem by being in too close a proximity with humans. Bear relocation from Yellowstone National Park is one example. The seals at Children’s Pool are no different. They are not an endangered or threatened species. Under the committee’s latest proposed management plan they will continue to overpopulate Children’s Pool and surrounding beaches.

    One key element of the Council of Diver’s proposal was to monitor the encroachment of seals and sea lions into other beaches. This was not even considered by the NR&C Committee and will be a source of problems in the near future. Think of Children’s Pool, part 2, at the La Jolla Cove. It is just a matter of time. At the La Jolla Cove, without the clear intention for the use of the area for the people, as was the case for the Children’s Pool Trust, the city will have no choice but to surrender the La Jolla Cove to the wildlife.

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