Seal ‘wars’ continue at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool

A harbor seal with her baby on the Children's Pool beach in early February 2010. Photo: Greg Wiest

By Dave Schwab
Staff Writer

Like the Energizer bunny, the seal “wars” at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool just keep going on, and on, and on …

In the wake of a recent, failed attempt to keep the rope barrier separating humans from the harbor seals up year-round instead of just during the five-month pupping season, incidents involving the two camps have intensified.

In February, pro-beach access advocates filed a complaint alleging the some of the seal supporters stole a beach umbrella with a message that Casa Beach was open for public use. The matter was settled when a judge ordered $30 restitution and allowed the defendants to keep the old umbrella.

Then, on Feb. 20, Eric Bizzigotti, his young son and a friend were playing on the beach at Children’s Pool when a foam football Bizzigotti was using to play catch with his son rolled down the beach into the middle of a group of seals. Retrieving the football flushed a large number of them into the pool. The incident was videotaped by seal advocates who subsequently showed it to authorities.

The following Sunday when Bizzigotti returned to the beach, he was issued a $500 ticket by a National Marine and Fisheries Service agent for the earlier incident.

Bizzigotti said he has 30 days to mail in the fine or appear in San Diego Superior Court. He said he intends, as a matter of principle, not to pay the fine and to challenge the ticket.

“Shared use is great,” he said. “But there needs to be an understanding that people and seals are going to interact. It’s like when you go to the park and the squirrels and the pigeons run away from you. People on the other side (pro-seal) are chanting, ‘Get off the beach. Shame on you.’ People (beach users) don’t want to get yelled at. They don’t want to be made a spectacle of. Harassment, apparently that’s legal.”

Andrea Hahn, the seal advocate who shot the footage that led to the citation, said the situation merited enforcement.

“This citation was long overdue primarily because the participants involved were keenly aware of the dangerous affect their insurgence so deep within a rookery full of newborn puppies and females in the late stages of their pregnancies involves, and simply didn’t care to comply in deference to the singularity of their particular political leanings,” she said.

She added that a seal pup born prematurely “as a direct result of their decision-making” survived despite the intrusion.

Meanwhile, beach-access proponents are ramping up lobbying efforts with the city and local community advisory groups urging enforcement of a new permit system requiring “free speech” tables at Children’s Pool to participate in a lottery system, pay a user fee and be licensed.

Pro-seal groups have refused to participate, claiming such permitting is unconstitutional and doesn’t apply to nonprofit groups.

Kenneth L. Hunrichs of Children’s Pool Friends, one of the two groups backing beach access with permits for booths above the beach, has sent a letter to the city’s Park and Recreation Department stating:

“The City of San Diego began a new permit system at Children’s Pool on Dec. 1, 2010. … The presence of illegal vendors has interfered with the financial support our organization needs to conduct our educational activities … As expected, the city-sponsored rope barrier is used as a tool of harassment and misinformation by extremist groups. … The city appears to be leaving the enforcement to individual citizens  … The continued failure of the City of San Diego to regulate the permitted table sites is irresponsible. … . The City is legally vulnerable for any injuries or damages due to lack of law enforcement at the Children’s Pool.”

Hunrichs said no one from the parks has responded. other than to tell them it has been received and passed along to management.

Related posts:

  1. City restricts First Amendment sellers at Children’s Pool
  2. Free speech is latest battleground at Children’s Pool
  3. Children’s Pool rope barrier goes up, but only for pupping season
  4. Planning Commission denies year-round rope barrier for La Jolla Children’s Pool
  5. Life at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool: Two views

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Posted by Dave Schwab on Mar 4, 2011. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

20 Comments for “Seal ‘wars’ continue at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool”

  1. Yea Right

    That ticket will probably dissapear like a cheap date when the bill arrives

  2. Phyllis Minick

    Remember when we went to
    the sea for beauty, solace and inspiration? Recently, I walked at LJ Cove. The
    tide and waves were high. Seals and sea lions covered the rocks, barking and
    doing sea mammal stuff. Three small groups of swimmers moved fast through the
    water, some without wet suits. A few folks walked on the narrow band of sand;
    some close to animals on the low Western rocks. A smiling vendor sold tie dye T
    shirts. The sun, water, people and animals were at peace.

    Why is the Children's Pool not just like that? There's just one reason —
    APRL. Can't we do something more than we're doing to bring politics and
    reasonable coastal use into sync, since of these two locations, less than a mile
    apart, only the La Jolla Cove is an indisputable example of how peaceful and free
    things should be?

  3. BirdRockNative

    "“This citation was long overdue primarily because the participants involved were keenly aware of the dangerous affect their insurgence so deep within a rookery full of newborn puppies and females in the late stages of their pregnancies involves, and simply didn’t care to comply in deference to the singularity of their particular political leanings,” she said."

    As a frequent visitor to the Children's Pool area, as well as one who enjoys watching the seals, the above statement is the height of arrogance.

    Dear Seal Activists,

    Please go away. Don't go away mad, just go away.

  4. Dave

    As a regular visitor to La Jolla and the children's pool, I have lost count of the number times I have heard members of The La Jolla Friends of the Seals and the same Andrea Hahn quoted in this article telling tourists that the beach is closed to the public and that it is illegal to go on the beach.

    I don't understand why the city authorities allow these people to pose as city docents, lie to and harass tourists, and sometimes even verbally and physically attack tourists and beachgoers. If I walked up to someone and stole their property, be it an umbrella or a watch or a car, I would have an arrest record, yet the city lets these people get away with it and even keep the stolen property. If I was to spit on a child, or assult a diver for using a beach, I would get tossed in jail, yet the city lets these sociopaths walk free. If I set up an illegal vending operation on a city street I would get cited and fined, yet the city allows the APRL to sell crap without permits day in and day out down there.

    Why does a self appointed "seal protector" get a free pass when it comes to breaking laws the rest of us have to follow?

    The one and only problem with the children's pool is the seal activists. They need to be leave the public alone.

  5. npk32

    La Jolla should be ashamed. Take a look at Casa Beach on a map. It's surrounded by coastline for miles and miles and miles. There's literally an infinite amount of places for people to enter or exit the water or to have their children play aside from this 100 foot stretch of beach. I realize that it's safer than the areas immediately surrounding it but La Jolla Cove is right down the street! It's the same exact setup! The only difference is that seals aren't trying to give birth to pups there. What's wrong with entering and exiting the water or having your children play there instead?

    • fishinwithagun

      You should be ashamed in your selfish thinking, npk32. Yes, you are selfish because you want Children's Pool to be a seal viewing area when it is explicitly a beach artificially designed and purposed for humans. The seals don't care what beach or rocks they are at. It's only because they are protected that they stay at the children's pool because no one can legally shoo them away. If the public was allowed to be more assertive in taking back beach from the seals, the creatures would find another beach or rocks and haul out on. Fine… but they are not welcome at the only beach explicitly purposed for human use. It's insanity. And don't tell me that the senate bill amending the trust to include "marine mammal park" means anything- it doesn't. A marine mammal park is by definition a place such as sea world. By law and practicality, a "marine mammal park" will never exist at the Children's Pool.

      You are so clueless. All of the seal activists have deficiencies of logic. Please leave La Jolla and go back to Berkley or wherever you were indoctrinated.

      • newhus

        Hey I grew up in La Jolla and went to Berkeley and I want to teach my kids to swim there like I was taught to swim there. UCB teaches common sense and the ability to get along with others of opposing views, as well as you know, being smart about the world around you. There are no courses on being nutballs. Not cool bro.

  6. Anthony

    The last two tickets issued for harassment of seals at the Children's Pool were dismissed by the federal court.

  7. npk32

    I understand that someone with the chosen handle of "fishinwithagun" may have trouble grasping the fundamentals of my argument since I'm basing it on general sympathy and respect towards wildlife.

    Regardless, the issue here is that the seal rookery at Casa Beach gives everyone the opportunity to conveniently view a unique and beautiful natural occurrence. The fact that you can park your car and walk right up to witness seals giving birth and teaching pups to swim sets this location apart from similar locations in California.

    I agree that seals are capable of finding another beach to haul out on and give birth to pups. But by the same logic aren't we afforded the luxury of different beaches to choose from in this area?

    The difference is that if we force the seals to choose a different location then we've squandered this incredible opportunity. And for what? All we have to do to preserve this experience is to make the choice to walk or drive an extra five or ten minutes. I realize that asking people to do this may be viewed as "insane" or "selfish" but I disagree.

    Keep in mind that I'd love to be able to use Casa Beach. It's convenient and it's a beautiful place to spend the day. But I also realize that something amazing is going on there. If preserving that means that I need to sacrifice personal preference then so be it.

    • fishinwithagun

      Thank you for your nicely formatted response npk32, but I still have to disagree with your reasoning.

      Yes, I will concede the Children's Pool provides extremely easy access for watching seals. Yet the access is available because the pool was constructed for one exclusive purpose: human recreation. There are also many other beaches along the San Diego coast that are also easy to access if the seals were to relocate there that were not purposed for the EXCLUSIVE USE of humans and their recreational activities.

      The Children's Pool has an stadium-like quality so I suppose it is especially "suited" for viewing seals. But by your logic, if seals began to inhabit public fountains in the town center, we should leave them there because access is good and "something amazing is going on there".

      You and other activists seem to be enthralled by the seal's daily activities that comes from a "general sympathy and respect" for wildlife. Why is nobody caring about the nests of pigeons and squirrels in the city of San Diego? I don't see any sidewalks or ivy patches being closed down out of respect for them? And of course we shouldn't be.

      I intend no harm upon the seals. And there is no evidence anyone is causing material harm to the seals when they flush into the water; it's a natural instinct. Do you not think before humans densely populated this area there were natural predators that caused seals to flush into the water? I'm sure coyotes and grizzly bears had a field day during pupping season.

      My principle issue is not with the seals on the beach, but that users of the beach are powerless to DO anything about it. If I want to take a swim or use the beach wherever I damn well please, that is my right. Activists and the federal government who intimidate me when I am exercising that right really piss me off.

      The Children's pool is an emotional issue. When making decisions for the public as a whole it is best to leave emotion out of this and act pragmatically. The facts are this: there is no threat to the seals by humans using the beach. The Children's Pool is appropriated for the exclusive use of humans. There is the Seal Rock preserve just to the north of it we have set aside for seals.

      It's time the people of San Diego have said enough is enough to going out of our way to accommodate an species of animal that is in overabundance, restricts our access to beach, and damages water quality in areas designated for swimming and children's use. City of San Diego, please dredge the Children's Pool beach and displace the seals.

  8. Brock

    As a visitor to san diego, getting to la jolla and visiting children’s pool is a complete waste of time. It took us an hour to get into la jolla with all the traffic, then we drove around for 25 minutes looking for a parking space near children’s pool. When we finally got one we had to walk several blocks down a steep hill to the beach. It was crowded and there were people yelling in megaphones. The air was full of tension and hatred. Then it took almost another hour to leave la jolla due to mass exodus of traffic and only one way out to highway. Wasted a whole day and didn’t see much. We won’t waste another vacation day there. More reliable to go to sea world to see wildlife.

    • npk32

      An hour to get into La Jolla, 25 minutes to find a spot, and another hour to leave? You're doing it wrong.

    • Phraz

      I am from the east coast-recently spent time in LaJolla. I had no trouble getting to the children's pool area any of the times I visited. In fact, it was the highlight of my trip. At the time I was unaware of the disputes re. the seals. I can tell you wholeheartedly that I support leaving the seals undisturbed. It was for me an incomparable experience–nature at its best and right there for all to witness. Why would anyone want to jeopardize such a unique setting?

  9. 4RBeach

    Here is a quote from @ Surfrider,
    "Access to public beaches is a right for all Californians, not just the privileged few who can afford it".

  10. Joe


    "This is an excellent beach for scuba diving…"

  11. cyberKICK

    Was free speah really supposed to be for people to get blow horns and yell at people and tell them what they can and can't do? Was free speech supposed to overrule peaceful beach recreation? How do you feel about your neighbors blasting their stereo at over 90dB? It is a disturbance of the peace.

    • James

      Yes if someone is breaking the law by using an amplification device (I don't know if there is an ordnance against that or not) then they should be cited. I have said many times on these message boards that I think the Seal Watch people hurt there cause when they do those things.

      If you saw someone… I don't know breaking into a car or hitting a child you wouldn't shout at them? While you don't see people being on the beach as an offense like the ones I mentioned the Seal Watch people do! To them not yelling at you feels like they are doing something wrong just like not stopping a kid from being beaten (should) feel bad to you. And I know you disagree with that thought process and that's fine (I guess). The real problem (as I see it) is that both sides have a moral objection to both the status quo and what the other side would like to see done with the beach. I think there's a lot of middle ground to explore to keep the seals and the people/children happy at the beach. A Ranger with some type of actual authority to cite people that misbehave on the beach while also teaching proper use of the beach and how to live along side nature would be a wonderful route!.

    • npk32

      Dude, just stick to frisbee. Interpreting the Constitution is not your strong suit.

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