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A federal judge will decide today whether to issue a temporary restraining order that would keep the city from having to disperse the colony of harbor seals at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla.

U.S. District Judge William Hayes heard arguments from Bryan Pease, a lawyer for La Jolla Friends of the Seals, who said the city would be in violation of federal law if it follows a likely order by Superior Court Judge Yuri Hofmann to immediately remove the colony of more than 100 seals from the cove without a federal permit.

Pease added that the situation is especially urgent because the seals are on the eve of their pupping season. Pregnant seals, he said, would likely abort their unborn pups if they were harassed off the beach. If that happens the city could be charged with a felony under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Deputy City Attorney George Schaefer said there is confusion concerning the need for the city to obtain a permit, and didn’t oppose Pease’s request for a temporary restraining order.

Attorneys representing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said a provision in the federal act allows for the dispersal of marine mammals if they are judged a nuisance, but said they would not oppose a restraining order as long as it did not name NOAA.

Hofmann on Tuesday said city is obligated immediately to shoo the colony of seals that for more than a decade has used the manmade cove as a birthing ground. He held off on issuing a formal order, but indicated that he would do so by Friday.

Stay tuned.

DAVID WASHBURN

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