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The harbor seals of Casa Beach have received little comfort from the City Council decision for greater seal colony protections during a well-attended special session in La Jolla on May 17th.
After a 6-2 decision to re-install a rope across the beach year-round, the public use of the small beach has become even more demanding. In fact, a loose-knit alliance of anti-seal, pro-beach users have become militant since the decision. The group has set up three or more tables selling tee-shirts in bright yellow print claiming “Children’s Pool Ranger.” Oversize signs proclaim, “The Beach is Open for Swimming and Diving.”
The scene is one of a chaotic takeover with large umbrellas, BBQ parties and visitors occupying all possible spaces along the seawall ledge, at the waterline and over into the sandstone bluff side day and night.
On several occasions, I’ve seen seals bobbing offshore, looking for a place to enter the beach for a much-needed rest, but being creatures of a shy nature, they simply give up and wait for the large human crowds to dissipate to their own land-based comforts in the late-night hours.
For the last couple of weeks, hardly any seals have been seen on the beach in the early morning hours, a time previously relatively safe for them. On Tuesday, the tale-tell signs of a single man’s shoe print tells the story of approaching the seals usual sleeping space, a large flushing into the water, and another line of footsteps leading back to the steps.
Where is the follow-through of the popular desire to allow the seals their small parcel of the coast? Visitors from the world over are disappointed to see only swimmers and divers where they were told there would be seals. Why has the mayor refused to allow temporary placement of a thin rope line to suggest people are safer behind the line? Why is there no surveillance of night time disturbances? Why do the lifeguards make so few public announcements for public safety to stay away from the seals? Where is this city’s sense of stewardship and adherence to a code of conduct?
Ellen Shively is president of the La Jolla Friends of the Seals organization. She lives in Paradise Hills.