Your View: Sharks, seals and La Jollans

L. Jordan-Smith, Ph.D.

La Jolla resident

Since moving here, I have enjoyed reading the Light, however some contributions are upsetting. A letter published on Sept. 8 frightens residents that “great white sharks have arrived,” implicating seals as the reason.

White sharks in this area are not a new phenomenon. There is no evidence that their movements are related to seal presence, or that their numbers are increasing. White sharks are actually listed as an endangered species by the IUCN Red List. Most of these sharks in Southern California are juveniles that feed on fishes, not marine mammals, and they are more common in the summer, not when it gets colder.

If sharks are not a valid concern for keeping seals off of the beach, what is? Other arguments relate to beach safety, claiming the beach the seals like, referred to as “Children’s Pool” is the safest for children. This was also refuted in a letter from a former lifeguard.

The ocean will never be a “kiddie pool.” That doesn’t mean children of all ages can’t enjoy it, but anyone entering the ocean should understand that there are dangers. Thousands die annually from drowning while typically less than 10 worldwide die from shark interactions. The number suffering from skin cancer dwarfs those drowning. There are real concerns for a day at the beach, but sharks are realistically, very low on that list.

The dedication of people determined to keep seals off the beach is tremendous. I am humbled by the many greater problems facing our community, state and country that could benefit from this energy and commitment.

“Shared use” is not possible when people are encouraged to populate the beach, thereby frightening the seals away. We are fortunate to have many lovely beaches at our doorstep. I fail to understand why some are not content to enjoy them, leaving just this one as a special place to observe another species. For those concerned with increasing tourism, while the roads could certainly use improvement, promoting and celebrating seals, instead of banning seal images from community art projects, would do more for encouraging visitors than fixing a few cracks in the sidewalks.

I hope we can all show our appreciation for this beautiful place through respect for each other, including other species.

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Short URL: http://www.lajollalight.com/?p=52239

Posted by Staff on Oct 12, 2011. Filed under News, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

22 Comments for “Your View: Sharks, seals and La Jollans”

  1. cyberKICK

    Some of what you say is true. The IUCN red list lists seals as an animal "of least concern". There are plenty to see all over the place. All this energy should be spent in Mission Bay protecting the IUCN red list ENDANGERED green sea turtle that lives there.

  2. Davy Jones

    “Shared use” is not possible when Seals are encouraged to populate the beach" by Sealwatch and Friends of Seals to draw a crowd to scam money from tourist.

    • James

      Really they encourage the seals to come on to the beac? How does this happen? Do they draw them on shore with fish?

      • cyberKICK

        They are encouraged to use the beach by being rehabilitated by Sea World and then released at The Children's Pool. Seals don't migrate so they will stay in the same area as they are released. This mess wouldn't have happened if the seals were released near where they were found.

        • James

          The Historical Society will tell you there were seals showing up at CP long before SeaWorld was releasing seals in the area.

          • cyberKICK

            I did call over there. They claim to have no knowledge of whether or not there were seals there. They claim the records are very incomplete. I asked for pictures, but all the pictures they have don't show any seals. The're records report complaints of the seals "barking". However seals don't bark, sea lions do. Perhaps the area had sea lions before. Sea lions come to shore far more often than seals do. It would make more sense for there to have been sea lions before. The person at the historical society agreed.

  3. cyberKICK

    There is no doubt there are more sharks now than before the seals arrived. Many more attacks on people as well. Aside from that, the reason the wall was built where it is and shaped the way it is was to minimize the possibility of rip currents. It is a northeast facing beach so waves don't come crashing in. The currents right outside the wall allow for much easier access to the kelp beds for spear fishing. The 1 lifeguard you found that "refuted" the fact it is designed to be the safest beach around for kids is a real-estate broker. If you want to hear the truth, ask a bunch of lifeguards. Most agree it is much safer to go to than the beaches on either side. Before this whole mess we had world class diving and lots of colorful fish and sea life. It is a good thing we have the man-made structure to protect the seals from the environment. As for the tourism, it was much busier before the seals arrived. Where did all the tourists go? Could it be the tourists don't like being yelled at thru megaphones?

    • James

      "There's no doubt there are more sharks now than before the seals arrived." Please cite the source for this conclusion!

      There could be many reasons for increased shark activity and shark "attacks". Increased use of the area by humans such as more and more surfers, divers, swimmers and fishermen. The shark number could be constant and people are better educated and know what they are seeing. If there is an increase of sharks that could be due to more protective laws that have helped shark numbers rebound. These are just ideas I don't know I haven't conducted a study to know for sure.

      • cyberKICK

        Sources are easy… the UICN, my own eyeballs when I go in the water, divers, freedivers, shark attack numbers, dive shops, DFG, in fact, I couldn't find a single reliable source that refutes this. I hardly thought that would be your point of contention. Go in the water and look at the wildlife now compared to the way it was 20 years ago.

        • James

          So you're complaint is that there is more wildlife? Not that the seals are attracting sharks?

          • cyberKICK

            No, there is much less wildlife now. What used to be world class diving with lots to see (brightly colored fish, octopi, sea hares, brittle stars, starfish, various crustations, etc…) is now more like a desert with the wildlife devastated. However, sevengill sharks are far more populous. An imbalance has been introduced. Seals have many land predators. Bears, large cats, coyotes, wolves, and the pups have to worry about large birds, etc. Now that we have removed their natural predators they are able to reproduce much more successfully than in the wild. The marine biologists have stated on record (5 years ago) that the area is at ecological capacity and can’t support more seals.

          • James

            If there's nothing out there why are you still going spear fishing? There must be something out there for the seals to keep eating since there are more and more of them and they look pretty fat. If not it should balance itself out just fine.

          • cyberKICK

            Well, seals travel on average (again, this is according to marine biologists who consult for the city and are called upon as experts in the field) over 25 miles a day. So they fish near the pool and far away. As for the spear fishing, that is hardly scubadiving and looking at colorful wildlife. White sea bass, perch, seven gill sharks, lobster, and other decent fishing is really good in the kelp just outside the pool. What is special is that the currents outside the pool make the kelp easy to get to and from. The depth of the area is perfect also. You could experience this if you like. I would be happy to take you or anyone else who wants to freedive out and show you.

          • James

            What are you crazy I don't want to get yelled at! haha

          • cyberKICK

            So what you are saying is that even though it is obvuious to anyone who looks around under water, you don't want to look for yourself because you dont want to be yelled at. What I am saying is that instead of listening to either side, look for yourself (ignoring people yelling).

          • James

            I've said before I like the shared use policy. That being said The only activity I enjoy at CP is watching the seals. My time at the beach is typically playing volleyball or surfing neither of which I can do there.

          • cyberKICK

            Shared use is fine. The seals come up and visit us on the beach and in the water. What isn't good is the sales tables where yelling is occuring where people are trying to make this place as unpleasant for beachgoers as possible.

          • James

            I've said before I don't agree with people yelling. I also don't think it helps there cause. But in order to have Free Speech it can't be regulated. And that is where the dilemma is with the situation. What's funny is I think we both agree on 99% of what's going on at CP. We both like "shared use", no beating of the seals, no yelling/fighting, less tables and the lifeguard tower/bathrooms being renovated are all things I support. We even agreed that there MAY have been seals out there before the wall was built. The one thing we might disagree on is using peoples selachophobia as a reason to no appreciate the seals.

          • cyberKICK

            I don't know what "selachophobia" means, but free speech end when it is just yelling order and lies to people with a megaphone. How are beach users supposed to know a lifeguards commands on thier megaphone when people on the wall are using them as well. Try to do any of the seal activist tactics on any other beach and see what happens to free speech. Try it in an airport.

          • James

            "Fear of Sharks"

            It would seem your issues have less to do with APRL and more to do with the police and the DA office.

          • cyberKICK

            Well, it would me nice if the DA and Police enforced the laws there, however, if APRL would obey the laws then that would be better.

  4. cyberKICK

    You said "The ocean will never be a “kiddie pool”", while that is certainly true of the open ocean, why not of a small currentless, waveless pool that is man made and filled with ocean water? Of course youcan make a kiddie pool in the ocean. There used to be on in Del Mar 100 years ago, but it is gone now. The idea you can't build a kiddie pool on the coast is also worng. Just saying you can't doesn't make it so.

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