Your View: Sharks, seals and La Jollans

L. Jordan-Smith, Ph.D.

La Jolla resident

Since moving here, I have enjoyed reading the Light, however some contributions are upsetting. A letter published on Sept. 8 frightens residents that “great white sharks have arrived,” implicating seals as the reason.

White sharks in this area are not a new phenomenon. There is no evidence that their movements are related to seal presence, or that their numbers are increasing. White sharks are actually listed as an endangered species by the IUCN Red List. Most of these sharks in Southern California are juveniles that feed on fishes, not marine mammals, and they are more common in the summer, not when it gets colder.

If sharks are not a valid concern for keeping seals off of the beach, what is? Other arguments relate to beach safety, claiming the beach the seals like, referred to as “Children’s Pool” is the safest for children. This was also refuted in a letter from a former lifeguard.

The ocean will never be a “kiddie pool.” That doesn’t mean children of all ages can’t enjoy it, but anyone entering the ocean should understand that there are dangers. Thousands die annually from drowning while typically less than 10 worldwide die from shark interactions. The number suffering from skin cancer dwarfs those drowning. There are real concerns for a day at the beach, but sharks are realistically, very low on that list.

The dedication of people determined to keep seals off the beach is tremendous. I am humbled by the many greater problems facing our community, state and country that could benefit from this energy and commitment.

“Shared use” is not possible when people are encouraged to populate the beach, thereby frightening the seals away. We are fortunate to have many lovely beaches at our doorstep. I fail to understand why some are not content to enjoy them, leaving just this one as a special place to observe another species. For those concerned with increasing tourism, while the roads could certainly use improvement, promoting and celebrating seals, instead of banning seal images from community art projects, would do more for encouraging visitors than fixing a few cracks in the sidewalks.

I hope we can all show our appreciation for this beautiful place through respect for each other, including other species.