One of the joys of visiting beautiful San Diego is dropping by La Jolla Cove to see the seals on the beach. Last week San Diego Mayor Bob Filner closed the famous beach to nighttime visitors as an emergency measure. A shocking video caught two women sitting on the seals, pulling on their flippers and doing all they could to chase the animals off the beach during the night.
La Jolla Cove has been the center of controversy between animal advocates and residents since it opened in the 1990′s. The manmade beach, also called Children’s Pool, was originally designed as a safe area for children to swim because it is protected by a seawall that keeps the waves calm.
Over the years, the local harbor seals also found the protected beach and now more than 200 call it home. They are especially plentiful at this time of year during breeding season.
The video of the two women was uncovered from a surveillance camera installed in January by wildlife group Western Alliance for Nature. They donated the $40,000 camera to observe the seals during pupping season.¯
Sara Wan co-founder of the group said the “seal cam”¯ not only filmed the two women mistreating the animals, it has also documented other people coming onto the beach at night and harassing the seals. Western Alliance for Nature said the ritual happens nearly every night.
The seal cam has caught people climbing over a rope barrier that separates the human part of the shore from the seal section and kicking and punching the mother seals and their pups.
Wan explained the abuse is particularly disturbing to see when so many of the female seals are pregnant. Her group is concerned that some of the pregnancies will be aborted due to the stress of being forced into the water at night.
“We applaud the mayor for his decision,”¯ Wan said. “This is a very critical time, when moms are giving birth and bonding with their pups.”
The sunset to sunrise ban will continue through the end of pupping season in May. In addition, more police have been assigned to the patrol the beach at night.
Opponents argue they have a right to enjoy the La Jolla Cove because it was designed for children and designated for humans. They cite that since the seals have moved in bacterial levels in the water often exceed health standards. Divers in the area say they have to swim around so many seals, the water is becoming dangerous.
Closing the beach temporarily protects the seals, but does not solve the overall problem at La Jolla Cove. The city still needs to address how the animals can best co-habitat with the residents.
Photo Credit: LisaAndres