City completes signs and stenciling directing beach-goers to keep away from La Jolla sea lions

New signs posted over Point La Jolla tell visitors to keep their distance from sea lions.
(Courtesy of Robyn Davidoff)

The city of San Diego has completed installation of signs and stenciling around Point La Jolla to alert visitors to keep their distance from the sea lions that haul out there.

Some signs read “Stay back: Sea lion birthing area.” Others caution that sea lions can bite and that harassing them is against the law.

The stenciling, placed on trash cans, the sidewalk and the short wall that lines Point La Jolla, reads “Do not approach mothers or pups” and “Do not approach sea lions.”

Point La Jolla is a rocky area between the La Jolla Cove beach and Boomer Beach, where sea lions often go on land to rest.

In all, 14 signs or stenciled messages were added to the area.

The signs, announced June 1 and shepherded by City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, are part of a city campaign to encourage “responsible tourism.”

“The new signs and stenciling are in place to promote the responsible tourism that is essential to protecting sea lions and the public,” LaCava told the La Jolla Light on July 8. “At Point La Jolla, education is key. I continue to work with the mayor’s office and city Parks & Recreation Department to protect this sensitive habitat and its visitors.”

Stenciling on the short wall above Point La Jolla directs visitors not to approach sea lion mothers or pups.
Stenciling on the short wall above Point La Jolla directs visitors not to approach sea lion mothers or pups.
(Courtesy of Robyn Davidoff)

The push for the signs came after reports of harassment of sea lions and their pups, some of which have been born in the past month. Sea lion pupping season is recognized from June 1 to Oct. 31, and since Memorial Day weekend, Sierra Club Seal Society docents have reported people getting too close to the animals and touching them in attempts to get photos.

Following the installation, docent Robyn Davidoff told the Light that the Seal Society “is thrilled to see the signs and stenciling installed. Our group recognized the city’s tight financial situation and raised money to pay for the signs and stenciling. We hope these new warning signs will detour visitors from trying to get selfies with the sea lions, pet them or block their paths.”

“This is particularly important now that we have 47 surviving pups of 51 born and 800- to 1,000-pound male sea lions returning for mating season and establishing territory. This can be dangerous for visitors,” she added.

The Sierra Club said the total cost of the project was $350 for paint, two metal signs and four stencil messages used multiple times.

During a June 1 news conference announcing that the signs were coming, San Diego Parks & Recreation Director Andy Field said last summer saw an unprecedented number of visitors to La Jolla Cove and that similar numbers are expected this summer.

“While it’s understandable for the public to be fascinated by the local sea lion population and want a closer look, it is of the utmost importance that we are doing everything we can to protect and respect these animals while they care for their young,” he said.

LaCava added that “there are few places where you can be on dry land and watch the sea lions up close in their natural setting. Being this close has its advantages; it’s a memorable experience for children and adults alike. However, we have to remember we share the coastline with these marine mammals, which seem docile but are wild animals that will protect themselves and their young. We are committed to keeping both humans and animals safe … not only during pupping season but all year-round.”

In addition to the signage, the city’s budget includes funding for two new park rangers and a chief ranger who the city said will serve as an educational resource.

Though an assessment of how to deploy ranger staff across the city has yet to be finalized, “it is safe to say you can expect to see an increased presence of ranger staff at Point La Jolla and La Jolla Cove,” city spokesman Tim Graham said. ◆