Seal Society volunteers return to La Jolla beaches for Earth Day cleanup

Marisa Butler and J.P. Rosal aid the Seal Society's Earth Day effort to rid the Children's Pool beach of litter.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Earth Day 2021 brought more than a dozen volunteers to the La Jolla coast for a beach cleanup — the first such in-person effort organized by the Sierra Club Seal Society of San Diego since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The April 22 collection netted 21.5 pounds of trash.

The group met when the tide was lower at 10 a.m. at the gazebo overlooking the Children’s Pool to distribute gloves, trash bags, trash pickers and more before dispersing north and south, clearing the walkways, bushes and beaches between Shell Beach and South Casa Beach.

“What we’re really focusing on this year,” said Seal Society docent Pam Thomas, “is the PPE stuff,” referring to personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves that have been discarded on the ground during the pandemic.

“People are using masks, which is good,” Thomas said, “but they’re just dropping them on the ground without cutting the ear straps.”

Cutting the straps prevents animals from becoming entangled, she said.

Seal Society volunteers removed enough trash from La Jolla beaches April 22 to create a "Trash Mum and Child."
Seal Society volunteers removed enough trash from La Jolla beaches April 22 to create a “Trash Mum and Child.”

In addition to picking up tossed PPE, the volunteers removed a child’s scooter, clothing, a golf club, several water bottles and drink cups, a towel and dozens of other small items.

The group created a “Trash Mum and Child” from the items and snapped a photo before removing it all.

Marisa Butler, Miss Earth USA 2021, was among the volunteers at the event and said she loves what the Seal Society does to keep beaches clean. “Plus, it’s Earth Day. … I wanted to come make this area beautiful for all the animals that are here,” she said.

Butler, a North Park resident, won the environmentally focused Miss Earth USA pageant in February. She’ll compete in the international competition in October on her environmental platform of “collective Earth, which is focused on viewing plants and animals as part of our community so we can give them the respect that they deserve,” she said.

Butler said much of her effort zeroes in on endangered species. According to The Nature Conservancy, San Diego County is home to more endangered plants and animals than any other county in the continental United States. “There’s a lot to do here,” Butler said.

Volunteers gather above the Children's Pool beach April 22 to rid the area of litter.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

J.P. Rosal, who volunteers with Butler’s We Clean Trails organization, said he normally participates in trash cleanups on weekends but made a special Thursday effort due to its being Earth Day.

Thomas said the Seal Society is a frequent contributor to local beach cleanups. Its name is listed on the Adopt-a-Beach sign over South Casa Beach, and volunteers participated in trash removal a few times a year before the pandemic.

This year, with the arrival of Earth Day and many volunteers vaccinated against COVID-19, “we figured that beach cleanup was most needed,” Thomas said.

The Seal Society also offered material at the event informing visitors of the organization’s concerns about the harbor seals that rest on the Children’s Pool beach, which is closed to the public during the annual pupping season from December to May.

The beach will reopen Sunday, May 16, and Seal Society volunteer Robyn Davidoff shared guidelines for viewing the seals at the Children’s Pool and the sea lions at La Jolla Cove.

At the Children’s Pool, people “are supposed to stay behind the rope” that will be erected around the seals and “remain a distance of 50 feet” from them, she said.

Davidoff said “it’s against the law to disturb, harass or change the behavior” of the seals or sea lions, and she encouraged visitors to be respectful of their habitats.

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