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Community view: LJ’s seal rookery has major benefits

By James Hudnall

The front-page article by Dave Schwab in the 3-19-09 LJL regarding La Jolla’s harbor seal rookery appears to be the beginning of an intensified disinformation campaign by those who dislike the re-establishment of a prehistorical/early historical seal rookery at Casa Beach (aka Children’s Pool).

Some of these same individuals also seem eager to discredit the few private citizens who have made a common-sense effort to keep people and seals apart in the rookery while our city continues to proclaim “a shared beach.”

“Seal Rock,” according to the earliest maps of La Jolla (1887 and 1894), is the rock complex upon which the sea wall now rests. We can presume that early map-makers saw seals using the rock complex and the little beach which often formed between the complex and “Seal Point” (also named on the old maps and located where the lifeguard tower is now).

By 1928, one scientist estimated that there were only “several hundred” harbor seals remaining along the entire California coast due to hunting by humans. When the Marine Mammal Protection act was passed in 1972, the California harbor seal population began to rebound, finally growing to a size in the early 1990s where reoccupation of the La Jolla ancestral rookery was feasible.

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For La Jollans, the re-establishment of the La Jolla rookery has had two major benefits. First, the richness of the nearshore ecosystem has increased due to the presence of these top-of-the-food-chain predators. Secondly, the presence of the seals has provided endless education and entertainment for residents and visitors alike.

Like it or not, La Jolla is an ecotourism destination due to its wealth of spectacular coastal life, including the harbor seals at Casa Beach, the sea lions and pelicans at Goldfish Point, the garibaldi at the Cove and the leopard sharks at the south end of La Jolla Shores.

James Hudnall grew up in La Jolla.