Between the lines

Seal proponents seek to define park boundaries

The broad outlines of what form a marine mammal park at La Jolla’s Children Pool might take are beginning to emerge as seal proponents begin lobbying the city and community to create an animal sanctuary.

Children’s Pool’s future was discussed by seal proponents and First District City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner last week.

“Our office met with Friends of the Seals and we had a positive discussion about the need for community input and involvement in developing a long-term management plan for the Children’s Pool,” said Lightner aide Erin Demorest. “We’ve encouraged them to work with other interested stakeholders and community members to build consensus for their proposal.”

At the Feb. 11 La Jolla Town Council meeting, two members of the Friends of the Seals group shared what they hope will be part of the “marine mammal park.”

Ellen Shively said they are working with the city council in hopes of getting agreement to keep the rope barrier — which at this point is up from mid-December through the end of the pupping season in mid-May — up year-round. They also want the city to make it illegal for anyone to pass over the rope.

There’s precedent for what they’re asking for, Shively said, telling trustees about the Carpinteria beach that is closed during the pupping season.

There are some similarities — and many differences — between the seal “situations” in Carpinteria and La Jolla. For one, there are far more seals — as many as 500 — on the Carpinteria beach. And that beach south of Santa Barbara is not in the middle of an urban setting as the La Jolla Children’s Pool is.

“It’s a nature area, more remote, with natural rock formations harbor seals have chosen to be their primary rookery,” said Matthew Roberts, Carpinteria’s director of Parks and Recreation.

Noting their seal rookery is “one of the big attractions,” Roberts said regulations separating seals from humans in Carpinteria have been in place longer than in La Jolla and have not been controversial.

“We have a local law that closes that area of the beach for 750 feet on either side of the rookery to the public that’s been on the books now for the last 15 years,” he said.

Roberts added Carpinteria also “doesn’t have a pool of water that gets contaminated” by its seals, which he said are “one of the highlights” of our coastal trail system.

Should the San Diego council follow suit, the local Friends group has plans to expand the educational nature of the Children’s Pool.

Cindy Benner, president of the group, said at the Town Council meeting that they are planning to talk to the city about adding signs about marine mammals, the history of La Jolla and the history of the area’s tribal background.

She also said the group wants the National Marine Fisheries signs, which recommend that people should not get closer than 50 feet to the seals, clarified and improved.

Shively has offered a list of proposed changes seal proponents would like to see at Casa Beach now that SB 428 has passed paving the way for creation of a marine mammal park.

They include:

  • Treating it as a rookery.
  • Encouraging effective enforcement of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
  • Keeping a 50-foot separation by installing a permanent rope and restricting crossing over the line. It wouldn’t be possible to keep a 50' separation since seals move around. The only practical solution is to keep the rope where it is now.
  • Replacing signage at the beach which currently states that the beach is open at all times with NMFS signage that includes the official 50' guideline viewing distance.
  • Eliminating the “shared use” policy especially during pupping season.
  • Barring dogs from the beach completely.
  • Prohibiting fishing from the sea wall.