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.

Related posts:

  1. Mayor shares details of recently installed ‘seal cam’ at La Jolla Children’s Pool
  2. UPDATED (3/21): Mayor orders Children’s Pool in La Jolla closed after dark through May 15
  3. Mayor extends length of pupping season rope at La Jolla Children’s Pool
  4. UPDATED: City Attorney says ‘shared use’ working as La Jolla seal rope reinstalled
  5. Coastal Commission to rule on year-round seal rope July 11

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Posted by Staff on May 23, 2013. Filed under News, Opinion, Seal Watch. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

21 Comments for “Opinion: Stop blaming SeaWorld for the seal colony at Children’s Pool in La Jolla”

  1. so

    Thanks for laying out the FACTS!

  2. Bob Ewing

    It does matter where the seals came from. They have robbed these same students that just observe sleeping seals of the opportunity to enjoy the ocean in a safe safe area. What does “in perpetuity” mean? A trust signed 82 years ago by state and city officials is now ignored. Wild seals that are hugely acclimated to humans because they were nurtured back to health, now grow in numbers in close proximity to humans. The Children’s Pool name says it all. You wear a dirty diaper because your real agenda is to close coast line to those of us that use it. You are covert in your actions because if you and your groups real intentions were publicly known it would galvanize the uniformed into blocking your group at every level. I will resist efforts to deny my grandchildren the same area that their mom, dads and grandfather have enjoyed for over 60 years. No wonder momentum is increasing for La Jolla to become its own city. Seals bring residents congestion, tour buses whose riders don’t spend, and aromas that don’t smell like roses.

    • Don’t be so closed minded, things have changed over the years and so what if some woman bequeathed this to the people of La Jolla, it’s the sea for goodness sakes, No person should ever be able to control nature in all its glory!

      • Cheri Aspen

        So What if ‘ Some woman bequeathed this ‘??? What if you left something to your loved ones, and it was taken from them? So what? How incredibly disrespectful. And that is what this is really all about. The Friends of the SEals are incredibly disrespectful to people in general. And especially to Children, and to the Disabled swimmer for whom Children’s Pool was designed and built for. The seals have hundreds of miles of natural beaches to pup and poop on. The Children’s Pool is not a natural beach, take away the wall and the sand goes in a day. NO more haul out sand to pollute. That is probably the best answer as well since the wall will be condemned soon for safety reasons. Tear it down and the seals can haul out at a natural beach that will wash away the filth.
        The seals do have all their body parts, can access the sea from anywhere, and are great swimmers in the surf. A wheelchair swimmer has only the Children’s Pool to swim at safely. LA JOLLA SHORES is not safe for a person without the use of their legs to swim out through the surf and kayaks. C.P. is the one and only ocean POOL. A man drowned about ten years ago when the POOL was closed for this nonsense as he could not go into the safe harbor of Children’s Pool and had to try to exit at Shell Beach and the lifeguard could not save him and he died all because of people with the greedy need to look at a seal giving birth and pooping in a concrete swimming pool . It is not worth another drowning people!!!!!!!!!!!!
        You can not be that selfish to cause people to die for seals. Terrible. The seals do not like the WAN People and do not want the title Friends of the Seals given to the people who yell at children and spit in people’s faces and watch women undress. How do I know, because the seals swim with me. They are probably laughing while they play at the stupid human beings fighting over us. Follow the money , SEAL PROFITS. That is what this is all about . The seals do not need human help, they are over populated. Sea World needs to allow nature to take its course. Sharks need to eat too. And they are endangered. If you love seals then you must in turn love their home, the OCEAN. Its about balance. And the balance is gone along the La Jolla Coastline, the Garibaldi are being devoured and the mussel population is devoured. Who are protecting these species from the over population of seals? Not the WAN people, they are making too much SEAL PROFITS. WA WA WA, keep crying about seals as the money pours in, sure helped Filner get elected and now is pay back time. Go to a communist country , stay the heck out of the U.S. . C.P. is like a prison camp for the Nazis. Honor the court decision by Judge Pate, dredge out the filthy sand that is causing the neighbors to smell the stench and complain, not unlike the bird poop build up at the Cove since people were banned from the cliffs. Another great error. Native Americans, my ancestors were on those cliffs long before while men invaded. There was not a poop problem then, only when people were banned.

  3. David Pierce

    Former Chair, California Coastal Commission Sara Wan now seal activist, finally got it right, the name, “Children’s Pool” as they usually refer it as Casa Beach to distant it from whom it was built for was renamed by city council in a resolution after the dedication of the pool in 1931.
    The fact is that Rehabilitated seals were released there and off the beach at Children’s Pool in the mid 90′s and that is when seals started to come ashore and occupy the beach.
    If mother nature took its course we wouldn’t have this problem today, but man stepped in and messed it all up and released rehab seal that nature would have weeded out the weak so that the strong would survive.
    Just like the old saying, “it’s not nice to fool mother nature”.
    If these so called seal worshipers truly loved and cared for the seals health and welfare they wouldn’t want the seals to be in this public downtown arena to endear disturbance from beach activity in a beach orientated community of La Jolla.
    If you really want the seals be truly safe and in there wild natural habitat other than this man made embayment that is convenient for you to watch for your selfish desire to observer up close is good for you! But is that good for the seals?
    So to justify that question you would rather take away this beach for what it was built for and close it down for your own selfish desires that has disrupted the community for well over a decade.

    • Maybe some of you La Jollians are to obsessed with your own wealth, that you can’t see the forest through the trees!

      • Cheri Aspen

        Especially when our city officials close the gate blocking a ramp for the disabled that was open to them for over half a century. What does the City now have against crippled children wanting to wade in their Bathing pool built especially for them? This could AGAIN be the Best ADA Pool in the World.
        Please support keeping Children’s Pool open and restored as per Judge Pate’s verdict and ruling prior to the amendment to Ellen Browning Scripps Will and Trust leaving this historic treasure to the Children and Disabled of the World. The City Promised in writing, to maintain the Pool as a human swimming pool for all time. They were found to be in breach of this Trust. And they still are. Time does not change this ever.

  4. Sue Johnson

    Thank you for sharing the facts and true story of the seals at Casa Beach!

    As a resident of La Jolla, I’ve witnessed many children and people from throughout the world enjoy this beautiful experience. Clearly the seals @ Casa Beach are special treasure and we are grateful to have them here.

    So sad that a small group of selfish people refuse to share one small beach in La Jolla. These same people protest at the beach constantly, harassing both people and the seals.. depriving all of this unique and very special experience.

    • Cheri Aspen

      It is you that are selfish. Did you see the joy on the man’s face when he was able to lift himself out of his wheelchair into the calm waters of the pool behind the breakwater built especially for this purpose? NO? And why not? This pool was built for “Those handicapped in LIfe’s Game.” La Jolla Shores is not safe for a wheelchair swimmer without the use of legs. This is not a ‘beach’ it is a POOL. A HUMAN ocean Swimming POOL taking ten years to build for people. The seals should not be there pooping on the sand built up because the sluceways are closes and need to be opened. The seals like people . And if they people do not want the seals to have contact with people, then the seals need to go somewhere else, as the people were here first at Children’s Pool. Thousands of photos exist of the pool in yester-year, none of them have seals in them. There were no seals around this area when the Children’s Pool was built. Thousands of photos prove this. Get yourself to La Jolla Shores, tie your thighs, your knees and your ankles together with ropes, borrow their wheelchair and make it to the waters’ edge. See if you can even do that, which I seriously doubt, then fall off the wheelchair and into the few inches of water, and try to pull yourself out through the surf, the waves, the surfers, the kayaks and boogie boarders and stand up paddle boarders and see if you can make it out to swim. I challenge YOU to do this today please and then tell us all how easy it was. Then go to Children’s pool with a wheelchair and see the difference it makes. You are so selfish it makes me sick. Seals have their body parts and can swim well in the surf, a paraplegic does not have this ability and needs to have this pool especially built for them, not for seals. Not to be polluted with poop. Get your self down there and clean up the poop on the beach in the middle of La Jolla. I challenge you.

  5. Sharon J. LaDuke

    I have come to the conclusion that Pierce and Ewing can’t read. I was on the cam last weekend and thought it was a travesty to see grown men either chase or encourage adults and children to chase innocent helpless seals into the water simply because “they can do it,” while the ranger and lifeguards simply ignored the illegal activity Don’t you have better things to do with your time than to not only abuse the seals, but deprive people from all over the world the opportunity to enjoy the seals and their antics? And if you want your grandchildren to swim and play in sand with fecal matter and urine in extremely close proximity, that is your choice as “responsible” grandparents. It may be that some people in LaJolla don’t like the crowds and traffic, but I don’t believe that is the majority. I know of no other place in an urban area where children and adults can enjoy this gift from nature. Regardless of how they originated at the Pool, they are here.

    • Cheri Aspen

      No one especially D. Pierce and B.Ewing has anything but the best overall solution for the Children’s Pool. Its for Children and the Disabled to learn how to swim in the ocean. Period. Not a marine mammal park. That is stupid to try and do in a human swimming pool. Not logical. The seals can go to Shell Beach and their very own Seal Rock. S. Casa, Torrey Pines, ( now a haul out) and quite literally thousands of other locations. If shared use is not working , then honor the Judge’s order to dredge out the polluted sand as was deemed perfectly safe for the seals by NOOA and by Scripps and they will go where they belong, and Children can be where they do belong and the disabled will be able to explore the ocean for the first time, as there is no where else for them to go. Which is more important a Disabled swimmer for whom the wall and the pool was designed and built for or for seals who do not need the protection of the manman wall and have all their body parts and can swim in the surf? What is the most logical? Stop the selfsihness of your need to look at a cute seal, I have never seen such profits off selfish behavior.

  6. Carol Archibald

    Nice commentary: Providing the facts about how the La Jolla Harbor Seal Rookery was established and not blaming Sea World is important, especially since there is evidence from an 1887 map that the seals were at this beach centuries ago. Harbor seals are site-specific; that is, they are prone to return to the same place. Children’s Pool Beach or Casa Beach is their home, and it was their home long before the wall was built. The seals at this small beach are loved by children. In fact, children have repeatedly said, “they would rather watch the seals than swim there.” A survey done at an elementary school in La Jolla showed that 90% of over 1,000 children wanted to protect the seals and be able to watch them. Entire classes of school children come to see the seals and learn about marine mammals in the wild. People come from all over the world to enjoy the seals. Indeed, the La Jolla Harbor Seal Rookery is a rare treasure to behold!!

  7. Scott Anderson

    In 1992 the Director of Hubs SeaWorld accompanied by a seal activist approached the San Diego City Council and purposed creating a “Seal Reserve” at Seal Rock which is located between Shell Beach and Children’s Pool. After this meeting you can clearly see from the data Sara speaks about, that SeaWorld started to release seals in La Jolla near or at Shell beach. Check out the trend in 1995 releasing seals at Shell Beach. Maybe this is why she listed a link to her website and not the direct link to the data which is, http://www.wanconservancy.org/pdf/noaa_2013-0505PvReleases.pdf.

    I would like to know where Sara is getting the information she claims in the article. Take the statement about people trying to “extirpate harbor seals” this is just another activism tactic to mislead people from the facts and create a hopeless situation. Then demonize people who know the truth and are use a manmade beach which was built and trusted to people. Facts, you only have to look at the birth rate of seals which increases every year. I ask you does that sound like seals are being wiped out (extirpated). If seals were actually being harassed as she claims, these animals would have left long ago never to return. But that’s not the case here, seals have shared the beach with people for years and their numbers continually increase. That is completely opposite of what they are convincing people. This is why I believe Sara makes these outrageous claims, only to hide the real truth. She is just another out of town activist who has only recently began to show any interest in what is happening here in San Diego and has thrown her weight, money and power against the people who live and use the ocean here in San Diego.

  8. Seal Focas

    Mrs. Wan, you state that Seal Rock is historical evidence of seal presence at Children’s Pool. Is that the best you can do for evidence? How about archaelogical evidence, none has been found yet that we are aware of. Names of rocks do NOT prove anything. You state “there is absolutely no evidence that the seals at Casa Beach were planted there by SeaWorld”. Have you read the O’Sullivan Judge Pate decision? On page 22 it states “The release of harbor seals is accomplished generally in the kelp beds immediately outside the Children’s Pool.” You can skew the facts from NOAA all you want but that does not change the fact that SeaWorld along with City of San Diego helped create the seal colony at CP. Do you know when the first seal pup was born at CP? How about 1999. The SeaWorld evidence obviously bothers you. Pro-access folks do not call you an anti-children or say you are in favor of extirpating children so why do you negatively label those who do not agree with your opinions? Mrs. Wan, there is much to learn about CP and you are new to this cause so please do your homework and try to express yourself in a positive manner.

    • Cheri Aspen

      I have seen these people harrass children and their families. They even touch people to prevent them from going to the Children’s Pool. The children would much rather be in the water than watching it. The seals can either share the beach as Friends of Children’s Pool promotes or go elsewhere. There is NO else where for children to be safe behing a breakwater. The sand is not even natural there, take away the wall and the sand goes away, no place for seals to haul out on. There was not seals at Children’s Pool hauling out ever before the wall was built, there was no beach!!!! It was a natural reef pool, now it is a human swimming pool.

  9. Deborah

    Sara,
    Thank you for presenting the facts regarding the seals habitation at Casa Beach/Children’s Pool, to refute the misinformation spewed at the “deliberate harassers’” table on the sidewalk above the beach. I would like to see some facts to support Mr. Pierce’s argument!
    And to Mr. Ewing’s comment, the trust was revised to include “marine mammal park” as a permissible use of this beach. People come from all over the world to view these beautiful animals in a natural environment. Teaching our children to respect nature, by not interfering with the seals’ necessary time on the beach for resting, molting, birthing and nurturing their young, is an important lesson to protect this treasure for generations to come.

  10. Ken Hunrichs

    Sara Wan makes claims she has “debunked” three common “seal cam and beach access myths”. Unfortunately, Sara Wan’s statements are themselves false.

    First, Sara Wan claims that there is no Scripps “trust”. In fact, a ruling by the California Court of Appeals in O’Sullivan v. City of San Diego, “The (Children’s Pool) State Tidelands Trust was intended to convey to the City an artificial ocean water pool suitable for the use of children. As the recipient of the Trust and the Pool, it became the obligation of the City to maintain the Trust property in a manner suitable for its intended uses and purposes”. Put in plain language; the pool was created and protected in Trust for use by humans, especially children.

    Second, Sara Wan claims that seals were not released at Children’s Pool. Contrary to this claim, a court of law in O’Sullivan v. City of San Diego, has recognized, “the release of harbor seals is accomplished generally in the kelp beds immediately outside the Children’s Pool. Tagged harbor seals are routinely observed hauling-out at the Children’s Pool”. A Harbor Seal colony was created in La Jolla by the concentration of rehabilitated seals released just offshore from Children’s Pool.

    Finally, Sara Wan claims that there is no constitutional right to access the beach. Once again, this claim is false. Both Article X, Section 4 (access rights) and Article I, Section 25 (fishing rights) of the State Constitution guarantee the right to access the Children’s Pool. The State Constitution says, “No individual… shall be permitted to exclude the right of way to such water whenever it is required for any public purpose…so that access to the navigable waters of this State shall be always attainable for the people thereof”. This of course, is the basis of the California Coastal Act through a fundamental Constitutional right. As a former Coastal Commissioner, Wan must be aware of this.

    Unfortunately, Sara Wan’s claims are just false. Facts are tough to ignore but it seems that “seal protection” can justify ignorance.

    • Sara Wan

      Here again you are distorting the facts, citing only parts of the law and negleting the full story. The Coastal Act is very, very clear. Under Section 30210- “In carrying out the requirement of Section 4 of Article X of the California Constitution, maximum access, which shall be conspicuously posted, and recreational opportunities shall be provided for all the people consistent with public safety needs and the need to protect public rights, rights of private property owners, and natural resource areas from overuse.”. Thus the right to access the beach is not without limits and the coastal Act is quite clear about the ability to limit public access to protect natural resources.

      As for the Scripps “trust”. This beach has always been public so there is no way Scripps left it in “trust”. All tidelands are considered public trust lands and the State may not legally relinquich the right to change the terms of that trust and in fact it and did so. That “trust” now includes the right to of the beach to be used for a marine mammal park for the enjoyment and educational benefit of children, which is consistent with one of the uses, environmental protection, that all public tidelands may serve.

      Lastly, just check the record on the Sea World releases. The facts speak for themselves.

  11. Ilene

    A great article.. thank you clarifying and telling the true story of the seals @ Casa Beach/ Children’s pool. I’ve lived in La Jolla for many years and I know that the seals are a great asset to our community. It’s unfortunate that there are constant protests from the people who hate the seals. They chase the seals off of the beach almost daily and “occupy” the beach every weekend in protest, trying to encourage others to disturb the seals, as well. When this happens, all of the locals and tourists miss out on a wonderful experience.

    There are PLENTY of beaches in La Jolla and this beach is unsafe for swimming due to bacteria levels. I would never put my child in the water there. The fact that people do not realize that MANYchildren benefit from this is shocking to me. They clearly love the experience.. both children and adults!

    • Cheri Aspen

      There is not one beach in the State on the Pacific Ocean that is a safe entry for the disabled or for small children. The sand must be dredged out to get the pool clean and to prevent seals from hauling out, The pool never had sand naturally. Seals should not be allowed to haul out on. There should not be any beach that is polluted. This is poor marine mammal management, and the stench is much much worse that the bird poop at the Cove. The seals do not need the protection of the breakwater, people do. The seals have all their body parts, a cripple person does not, seals can swim in rip tides, people cant’. Wise up and jump in the sea. take a look at the devastation. If you love those seals you must love their home, the Ocean, And quite obviously you do not, nor do you support our Wounded Warriors, to put seals over their safety is very wrong, I suggest you leave the country as well. Russia may take you too. If you do not support our wounded American VETS and the pool engineered and built for them, then I suggest you take a slow boat to China.

  12. David Pierce

    “Sara, Thank you for presenting the facts”!
    What facts,
    Wan provides not a single factually data, link or information regarding the seals or seal rock, just what she has heard, it’s called hearsay. The city tried to create a Seal Rock Reserve, where Seal Rock is, not the location where a mistaken real estate broker hand drew a map to sell lots at the turn of the century.
    As far as Sea Worlds rehab release program, you all just can’t handle the truth, even Wan requested a Freedom of Information request that confirms that seals have been released at and around Children’s Pool,
    And if you can read, you would know that’s its true, it was never said that seals were never picked up in and around La Jolla, but they were released their after rehabilitation, again that is when It was documented that hand feed and nursed seals started to hall out at Children’s Pool. What is true is that you can’t handle the truth, you try so hard to debunk it as Wan had to write 2 stories so all you can drink the kool-aid and feel good about it.

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