Opinion: Stop blaming SeaWorld for the seal colony at Children’s Pool in La Jolla
Opinion / Guest Commentary
By Sara Wan
Former Chair, California Coastal Commission
According to those who want to extirpate harbor seals at Casa Beach (Children’s Pool), SeaWorld’s “hand raised seals were put here (Children’s Pool).” For years now, they have been telling everyone, that SeaWorld diverted “seals to La Jolla after care in the SeaWorld rescue program,” and that once the SeaWorld seals arrived at Casa Beach, they were joined by the wild seals. This is patently false. Since the beginning, more seals were rescued from La Jolla then were released there.
Their assertions are scientifically unsubstantiated and required a truth-check, particularly since their selectively redacted data contained only release and not stranding (rescue) data.
Wild seals were historically present at Casa Beach, as evidenced by the name “Seal Rock,” but left the area as their population plummeted due to hunting. After the cessation of hunting the population of harbor seals began to increase and in the late 1980s, early ‘90s, the colony at Casa Beach established themselves from other rookeries, many from San Francisco (Yochem March 24, 2005). In 1989, Sea World began rescuing and releasing wild seals that were injured or sick. None of the seals released by SeaWorld was ever bred in captivity. Regardless of where seals may be released, they will usually travel back to their home colony, or to wherever they please. A fact that, in and of itself, argues against the assertion that SeaWorld is responsible for the seals at Casa Beach. You cannot “plant” seals.
To understand this I obtained the complete data from NOAA, now available at www.wanconservancy.org. It’s no surprise that the complete data shows just the opposite of what has been claimed.
During the period from 1989 to 2012, SeaWorld released a total of 171 rescued seals. That’s an average of 7.43 seals per year. From 1989 to September 1995, a total of 56 seals were rescued and released. Only six of these were released near La Jolla. Most were released southwest of Point Loma.
During that same period, 14 seals were rescued off La Jolla, seven specifically from Casa Beach. What this shows is that there was already a colony at Casa Beach at the time the rescue program started.
Additionally, in the 23 years of rescue operations, only 55 seals were released near La Jolla. In the same time, 63 seals were rescued off La Jolla and 12 off Del Mar and Solana Beach — close enough to have most likely come from La Jolla. Thus, there was no net gain from the rescue and release program and there is absolutely no evidence that the seals at Casa Beach were planted there by SeaWorld.
In the final analysis, it really doesn’t matter where the seals may have come from. What matters is that they are here and we are all the richer for it. People come from all over the world to see these marine mammals. They are one of San Diego’s unique and valuable treasures and need to be protected for all.
While writing this, I was viewing the Seal Cam, watching a class of students who had come to the beach to watch the seals. What better gift to the children of San Diego than the opportunity to see seals in their own environment and learn about why nature is so grand.
- Mayor shares details of recently installed ‘seal cam’ at La Jolla Children’s Pool
- UPDATED (3/21): Mayor orders Children’s Pool in La Jolla closed after dark through May 15
- Mayor extends length of pupping season rope at La Jolla Children’s Pool
- UPDATED: City Attorney says ‘shared use’ working as La Jolla seal rope reinstalled
- Coastal Commission to rule on year-round seal rope July 11
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