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Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009 | With almost 850 miles of open coastline, the single most controversial stretch is less than one-eighth of one mile in length. This beach, identified as Children’s Pool or Casa Beach, is located in La Jolla, California, and has become one of the most hotly contested issues in decades. Pro-seal advocates argue that it is humans who are infringing on the seals natural territory. On the contrary, pro-public-access activists make the case that the pool was designed with swimmers and sunbathers, not seals, in mind. The question on everyone’s mind is who should be permitted to use the beach, seals or swimmers?

In any disagreement, the first solution that is conjured is usually some sort of compromise. In 2004, the city of San Diego, realizing the extent of the Children’s Pool dispute, issued a compromise. The joint-use plan that the City Council fashioned involved harmonious beaching on the tiny strip of sand. Barriers would be put up down the middle of the beach, and theoretically, into the water, to separate the seals from the swimmers. The beach would also undergo an immense cleanup process, in order to remove the toxic excrement left by the seals. However, this compromise was never fully executed. The mere idea of sharing the beach only heightened the tensions between the warring factions, leaving both sides entirely unsatisfied.

With the dispute 15 years in the making and with compromise no longer an option, the only reasonable option is to remove the seals. While the pro-seal advocates have several valid arguments, and only the best intentions, the facts support the pro-public access activists. In 1931, Children’s Pool was created, meaning it is a manmade area, by building a breakwater. The wall was constructed via funds donated by socialite and philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, with the prerequisite that the area would be a place for frolicking youngsters first learning to swim, young humans to be precise.

Upon receiving the generous donation, San Diego, under Statute No. 937 of 1931, was given by the state, full responsibility to forever ensure that the designated area be reserved for its designated purpose: a wading pool for children, and a recreation area for swimmers and beach goers. The purposes for the constructed cove were made irrevocably and irrefutably clear by donator Scripps, and to accept her gift, yet dishonor her wishes is both illegal and immoral.

Aside from the original intentions of the cove, a second point of contention is the excessive pollution caused by the seals. The tiny beach has been rated the worst-polluted beach in California, and is the only San Diego beach to receive failing scores from several clean-water organizations. This is because the man-made barrier creates virtually no water circulation to flush out the seal excrement. According to county health regulations, the highest ratio of coliform (colon-inhabiting bacteria) to milliliters of water that is safe for human contact is 200 to 100. At Children’s Pool, there are frequent peaks of 16,000 coliform bacteria per 100 ml of water, meaning that the water is 80 times more polluted than what is regarded as safe for humans.

Some may assume that the pro-seal crowd is synonymous to a pro-environment outlook. However, the presence of the seals is creating an underground desert wasteland that is extending further and further from the protected harbor, closer to the nearby protected waters of La Jolla Cove. The contamination levels of the water combined with the seals’ consumption has left the sea floor of Children’s Pool barren.

Similar is the damage caused by the seals’ feeding habits. The average harbor seal requires approximately 15 pounds of fish and crustaceans per day. With the estimated 100 seals currently residing at Children’s Pool, that is 1500 pounds of marine life consumed each day. La Jolla Cove is home to many endangered species of fish and ocean wildlife, and the seal population is decimating the fragile species that inhabit the wildlife preserve.

The only suitable course of action for the Children’s Pool is the removal or relocation of the seals. There are thousands of safe harbors for Pacific Seals along the California Coast, and the robust creatures will not suffer if they are forced to leave. Once the seals have been blocked from the beach, a water purifying program must be adopted in order to remove the contaminants from the vicinity. Only then can the Children’s Pool be returned to its rightful, intended owners: the children.

Alixandria Foster is a junior at La Jolla High School. Her essay reached the finals of the 2009 voiceofsandiego.org Essay Contest. The other finalists’ pieces will run this week with the winner’s appearing Friday, Feb. 20.

Works Cited:

“Children’s Pool and Seal Rock.” La Jolla Seals. 22 Jan. 2009 http://www.friendsofthechildrenspool.com/harbor_seal_quiz.htm

“Children’s Pool.” City of San Diego Official Website. 22 Jan. 2009 http://www.sandiego.gov/lifeguards/beaches/pool.shtml

“Children’s Pool, La Jolla, California.” California Beaches | Photos and Travel Guide for Beaches in California. 22 Jan. 2009 http://www.beachcalifornia.com/chilrens-pool-la-jolla.html

La Jolla Children’s Pool Seals — News, Legal Briefs and Photos — childrenspool.org. 22 Jan. 2009 http://childrenspool.org

Schindler, Liesl. “La Jolla Friends of the Seals…Preserving a Unique Natural Treasure.” La Jolla Friends of the Seals – Preserving a Unique Natural Treasure. 22 Jan. 2009 http://www.lajollaseals.com

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