La Jolla Parks & Beaches moves to secure 'sea lion busters'

To get the ball rolling, now six weeks after marine biologist Doyle Hanan turned in his report on the sea lion population at The Cove to the City of San Diego, the La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) advisory group voted to send a letter to the Mayor and the Park & Rec Department to prompt action on the deterrence methods recommended in the study. The motion passed (11-2-0) at the Aug. 22 meeting.

Specifically, the letter will request that a “contractor or entity” be authorized to use section 109(h) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-approved deterrence methods mentioned in the Hanan Report. LJP&B member Debbie Beacham, part of the sub-committee appointed to follow up on the sea lion situation said, “We want to get sea lion busters.”

As trustee Melinda Merryweather explained, “All we want to ask the Mayor is to take the recommendation that’s in the study he paid for, and let us use that first step.”

Beacham recommended that the method used involves spraying the animals with water. “We would like to explore the low-voltage fencing option with more detail, but I don’t think that that needs to be in this recommendation,” she said.

In response, trustee Zachariah Spitzer reminded LJP&B members that “Doyle Hanan also says in his report that this should not be considered a long-term answer to managing the California sea lions, as the animals tend to get aggressive the more frequently these techniques are used.”

LJP&B president Dan Allen said he was informed by city staff that gates and latches are coming, and once they are installed on each beach staircase, they will prevent the sea lions from getting to the lifeguard tower and the street. “It’s probably just in the design process, so it could take a long time,” Allen advised.

Trustees Spitzer and Jane Reldan moved for an amendment to the letter restricting the deterrence location to Zone Three (the beach), but the motion failed and the petition includes deterrence areas in Zones Three, Four, Five and Six (the beach and the upper cliff shelf areas).

The final text of the letter will read, “We strongly support you taking action ... on immediate measures to protect the health and safety of citizens considering the sea lions in the La Jolla Cove. We recommend you take action by designating a 109(h) entity or contractor to utilize the option in the Doyle Hanan report of NOAA-approved deterrence methods in the areas that are considered high use by humans, the beach and upper shelf areas … and then have an option to install gates and latches at the base of every stair. We understand that’s a work in progress.”

In other LJP&B news:

Challenged Athletes benefit: The board approved the 23rd annual Challenged Athletes Foundation fundraiser, set for Oct. 21 at The Cove. Executive director Virginia Tinley said, “We have been able to help 13,000 physically challenged people in all 50 states and 32 different countries. The fundraising we do here every October at Scripps Park remains one of our premiere events, and it’s budgeted to raise more than a million dollars.” Trustees encouraged Tinley to support the sea lion deterrence method proposal and lobby the Mayor to find a solution to the problem. She said, “Maybe we can meet for coffee and go over what that entails.”

Meet the intern: German landscaping intern Christian Weidner was introduced to the board. He is finishing his Master’s degree in technical landscaping and said he was thrilled to work in La Jolla. “I got this opportunity to come here for a project around The Cove and adjacent beaches, and I tried to figure out which plants we can best use for the place.”

Brown Act rules: During a presentation by Park & Rec Department district manager Marilyn Stern, LJP&B members were reminded of their duties as trustees. “All meetings have to be open and public, and deliberations must be taken openly, and all persons are permitted to participate and attend the meetings,” she said. The trustees said they are working toward raising the number of members required for a quorum.

LJP&B next meets 4:30 Monday, Sept. 26 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollaparksandbeaches.org

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