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Council committee to discuss La Jolla’s seals on Wednesday

Last week’s La Jolla Town Council meeting served as a sort of unofficial rehearsal for a hearing held Wednesday that was expected to be a harbinger of what could become policy at the Children’s Pool.

The divisive issue of seals and human use of Casa Beach was to take center stage at a City Council Land Use Committee hearing on Wednesday after the Light’s press time. Because of the anticipated crowd size, the meeting was moved from the committee room to the larger council chambers.

As a result of a new state law, the City Council is expected to vote sometime later this year on a proposal by seal advocates to turn the Children’s Pool into a marine mammal park.

On Wednesday, the committee’s agenda item says they will consider an ordinance regarding the area, with three options;

  • “Make it illegal to access the Children’s Pool during pupping season;
  • “Keep the rope up year round;
  • “Declare the Children’s Pool a marine mammal park, encouraging MMPA

enforcement.”
They also will consider “management options as presented by Friends of the Children’s Pool and the Council of Divers.”

Some of the players expected to tell council members their ideas on Wednesday had aired ideas at the March 11 Town Council meeting, among them Jerry Horna, a Friends of the Seals docent.

He said the group “wants to close the beach to humans for the pupping season and then lay the guideline rope year-round.”

But when pressed on whether his position precluded “dual use,” Horna said humans would be permitted when it is not pupping season, subject to the provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Seal watching, he said, should be designated as the “preferred use” at the pool.

Swimmer John Steel representing Friends of the Children’s Pool, a nonprofit supporting beach access at the pool, warned that turning it into a marine mammal park as suggested by seal advocates would worsen existing environmental problems as well as parking shortages in La Jolla.

“Particularly in summertime, there are few parking spots and they are hard to find,” he said, adding the (fecal) contaminated pool waters haven’t been tested in two and a half years and that the stench can be unbearable.

“There are no fish other than minnows in the water in that area,” he claimed. “Seals are a real problem with the environment and the ecology.

Presenting the position of the San Diego Council of Divers, John Leek conceded that “seals will always be at Children’s Pool by law.” But he argued the city is obligated to develop a seal management plan that includes other La Jolla beaches.

“We need a total plan ratified by a panel of scientists, Scripps Institution and Fish & Game detailing how stray pinnipeds get shooed back to Children’s Pool,” he said.

Following the town council meeting, Leek said his remarks were directed at “nothing in place” in current city policy to protect other beaches from seal incursions. “Where does it (seal expansion) end?” he asked. “Is there no limit?”

Leek had filed an appeal with the California Coastal Commission hearing, challenging the city’s application to place a rope barrier at Children’s Pool separating humans from seals during the mammals’ pupping season, but his appeal was denied on March 10 when the commission upheld the permit.

Lee McEachern, a supervisor in the commission’s San Diego office, said, “They found no substantial issue, which means the city’s permit for installation of the (rope) barrier is approved.”

A video of the Coastal Commission hearing on Children’s Pool can be viewed at

www.coastal.ca.gov

.