Opinion: Seal camera at Children’s Pool in La Jolla is greatly welcomed, but not new
OPINION / GUEST COMMENTARY:
By Patrick Lee Hord ll
Wildlife Biologist and Co-founder/former Executive Director of La Jolla Friends of the Seals
I installed SealCam on the Lifeguard Tower summer of 2000. It quickly became the most popular Internet camera in California. People from all over the world tuned in and watched what I coined San Diego’s “unique natural treasure” — the seals.
I feel fortunate to have seen the Casa Beach in a relative state of peace when it was closed to people from April 1999 to August 2004, and when visitors generally comported themselves with some degree of respect for the animals and propriety for each other. What changed is that the inherent human predisposition for mindless domination and entitlement overtook compassion, respect, and common sense.
During that time, the volunteer docent program was so successful with educating visitors that complaint calls to National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) about seal harassment fell to zero only two months after our initial presence at the site. This prompted the awarding of the Environmental Hero Award from NOAA and Vice President Gore to our group.
In 2007, I organized and raised funds for another Internet camera at the site. Local business, non-profit, and the Feds were signed on, but San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders slammed the door of his office on the project. This was a creative opportunity missed for education, enjoyment, protection of natural resources, and promotion of San Diego.
The new seal camera has acutely brought to light what has happened at the site since an elite group of La Jollans forced the removal of the protective rope in 2004, i.e. an almost daily orchestrated campaign of intentionally scaring off the seals by clanging umbrellas and lawn chairs, staging barbeques, coaxing tourists down onto the beach, and deliberately keeping seals from returning.
The only reason for present opposition to the new camera is now those same people can be seen acting ridiculous and breaking the law. Closing the beach at night can only benefit all involved, however, that, too, is opposed by the same cabal of seal haters.
With over a million people a year coming to watch seals and only a small fraction of those using the beach, one has to wonder why the City and Feds have pandered to such a small interest group for so long?
A unique world class wildlife viewing site has degraded into a tawdry circus for physical and verbal assaults, selling trinkets, restraining orders, spitting and urinating on others, arrests, religious and political demonstrations, Internet stalking, death threats, FBI involvement, pepper spraying and a stun gun, law suits, millions of taxpayer dollars spent, 24/7 police, and the dissemination of much misinformation about the seals and the site. It is simply, an embarrassment. One that most San Diegans have endured not condoned.
That misinformation includes the anthropomorphic oxymoron “shared use” which, in reality, has been the driver for the conflict at the site since the early 1990s. To harbor seals we are just another land-based predator, and seals mix with humans only in the minds of humans. Harbor seal survival literally depends on terrestrial haul-outs like the Casa Beach where they spend half their lives.
The recent incidents beg the question that has been the elephant in the room or beach for years: Why has the Federal government refused to exercise its duty to protect the seals?
I was told by the local NOAA agent that agents were instructed not to write citations. Thankfully, Mayor Filner gets this situation for what it is and is actively utilizing what tools he has to bring much needed management to the site. Let’s encourage him to call NOAA and ask them to do their job.
Sadly, we have still not changed our mindset, language, and hearts to meet the desperate situation imposed on wildlife by human encroachment and pollution of their traditional habitats. At the Casa Beach, we have a unique opportunity to transcend our limited and consumptive vision of how to live in the natural world and just simply give the seals the beach. We would be better for it.
- Opinion/Letters to the Editor: Ellen Browning Scripps’ trust is the only dictate to Children’s Pool use
- Mayor extends length of pupping season rope at La Jolla Children’s Pool
- The Seal Deal: Part 1 of series explores the pinniped world at Children’s Pool in La Jolla
- Opinion/Editorial: Police presence at Children’s Pool in La Jolla will hopefully ease the tensions over shared-use plans
- Mayor shares details of recently installed ‘seal cam’ at La Jolla Children’s Pool
Short URL: http://www.lajollalight.com/?p=104874