Children's Pool seal rope barrier cut; seal advocates cry foul

By Dave Schwab

daves@lajollalight.com

The seal rope guideline barrier separating humans from harbor seals during the marine mammals’ pupping season was found severed early Friday morning Dec. 23.

“This is exactly why the City Council voted 6-2 last year to have the rope up year-round — so we don’t have to be playing these games back and forth with the rope,” said attorney Bryan Pease of the Animal Protection and Rescue League, about the rope’s being cut.

Noting a “small group of individuals” don’t like the seal rope and are protesting its existence by setting up tents and beach umbrellas on its seal side, Pease said, “People don’t need to be on the beach during pupping season and the vast majority of people agree with that.”

Seals have yet to successfully pup this year at the pool, but Pease added, “They’re very pregnant.”

The rope barrier, which went up Dec. 15 and will remain up until May 15, has been a bone of contention for years between seal advocates who believe it’s needed to prevent harassment of seals, and pro-beach access proponents who say the city’s shared-use policy at the pool is working, and that the rope is unnecessary and a violation of the public’s constitutional right to ocean access.

After the rope went up Dec. 15, pro-beach advocates challenged its legitimacy, saying its dimensions were incorrect. City work crews Dec. 19 subsequently shortened the length of the rope barrier, sparking a controversy over the width of an opening for human beach access.

About 18 feet of the rope was removed to make the barrier comply with a permit issued by the city to its Parks and Recreation Department, which calls for it to be no more than 130 feet long with an opening no narrower than three feet, city spokeswoman Rachel Laing said.

The rope, installed at the designated start of the five-month season for seal births, measured 148 feet, so it had to be corrected, according to Laing.

However, animal rights advocate Pease said the workers left the opening seven feet wide, more than twice that intended by the City Council, which voted last year to have the rope up year-round.

“The widening of the opening signals the city is now further defying its own council resolution to keep people out of the seal (breeding area) during their pupping season,” Pease said in an e-mailed statement.

The rope is taken down for the other seven months of the year. The opening of the Children’s Pool without the barrier is 133 feet wide.

The area near La Jolla Cove was gifted to the city in 1931 as a safe swimming zone for youth, but was taken over by the seals years ago, resulting in a face-off between animal rights activists and advocates of beach access.

In March, the California Coastal Commission, meeting in Chula Vista, is scheduled to consider keeping the rope barrier at Children’s Pool up year-round.

City News Service contributed to this article.

   
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