By Dave Schwab
Chanting “shared use is abuse” and “just one beach for the seals,” more than 30 seal sympathizers rallied in La Jolla Saturday marching down to the Children’s Pool carrying signs advocating creation of a marine mammal sanctuary there.
Organizers said in a press release the event was a "rally and march to stop the harassment of seal rookery at Children’s Pool/Casa Beach in La Jolla."
They have complained about those who advocate public access to the beach who in recent weeks have been crossing over the guideline rope meant to separate humans and marine mammals. The rope has been up since Dec. 15 when the seals’ pupping season started and is set to come down on May 15.
“Shared use, it’s not working to protect the seals or the natural ecology, so we’re here calling for ending harassment of the seals,” said Tim Rusmisel, who organized the rally which included representatives of Sea Shepherd, the Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL) and La Jolla Friends of the Seals which operates a docent program at the pool.
Rusmisel noted a small group of people have been moving onto Children’s Pool beach and flushing seals into the water “so that they can set up a barbecue and play Frisbee.”
“Under federal law, that’s harassment,” he said. “We’re asking for the rules and laws to be enforced, keep the rope up, and eventually, we’d like to see the idea of turning the pool into a sanctuary. So we’re here today to raise awareness about those ideas and rally public support.”
“It’s been so accelerated this year, the violations,” said Ellen Shively, president of La Jolla Friends of the Seals. “They’ve (pro-access proponents) gotten organized.”
“It was weak,” said David Pierce, director on the San Diego Council of Divers, reacting to Saturday’s pro-seal rally. “They alert the media because that’s their only friend. I heard people laughing at them as they were walking through the streets. We’re for shared use, that’s city and state policy and law. They amended the trust by lobbying (State) Sen. Christine Kehoe and that created a shared-use beach. It created everything they asked for. Or is it?”
The group of divers was on the beach — for the most part outside the barrier — before the march started at Girard Avenue and Prospect Street. Then one of them walked to the beach in his wetsuit, scaring some seals into the water before turning around to walk back to the area on the beach where they had gathered.
Later, one man posted a sign inside the rope barrier reading "Beach open for swimming and diving. Respect the wildlife."
Before the seal proponents arrived at the pool, a larger group divers left the beach and entered the water from South Casa Beach. Still later, several others skirted along the far end of the rope — where there were no seals — as close to the bluff as they could to get into the water.
Meanwhile, all of their actions were videotaped by the seal proponents, who made a point of letting TV crews at the area above the beach know when the marchers were there.