Group salutes seal ‘moms’


La Jolla’s Children’s Pool drew a celebration for mothers of a different kind on Sunday.

La Jolla Friends of the Seals held a Sealabration to mark the end of another harbor seal pupping season at the popular beach. The seals must have had prior notice: about 100 turned out.

“It’s to celebrate the birth of pups,” said Cindy Benner, the group’s president. “We had 46 pups born this year, four more than usual.”

The pupping season at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool will officially end Fridaywhen the city takes down the temporary rope barrier separating mammals from humans, which has been up since Dec. 15. Whether the rope will go up in the future is up to the courts.

But Sunday’s affair was a fun, not a political, occasion.

“This is for kids so they can learn about seals,” said Benner. “Our main purpose is educational - help people learn about the seal rookery, harbor seal behavior.”

Aquatic artist and sculptor Ingrid Vigeant was on hand to let children participate in the painting of her papier mache sculpture. Other kids had their faces painted and free seal coloring books were handed out.

Friends of Seals members are unpaid volunteers who train as docents so they can answer people’s queries about seals.

“I tell people a little about the history of pupping season here,” said new docent Maya Nall. “We’re so lucky to have this natural attraction here. It’s a gift.”

UCSD biologist Norm Olson was an indispensable part of the festivities: He brought the cake and other goodies.

Olson said he feels emotionally invested in supporting the seal rookery at Children’s Pool.

“The situation’s changed since 1931 when the wall was built,” he said. ‘They were still killing seals for dog food. I think our sensitivities have improved somewhat.”

If the lawsuit challenging the seals’ presence at the pool succeeds, or a bill, SB 428, pending in the state legislature to make seals at the pool a permissible use at the pool fails, the city will dredge sand contaminated by seal waste at the pool to make it safe once again for human contact.