Seal of Disapproval

SD sealsEarlier this week a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled that the city of San Diego had two weeks to come up with a plan to evict a colony of harbor seals at Children’s Pool in La Jolla, a breakwater area with calm swimming waters that attracts many families. The judge’s twisted ruling discounted a previous federal order prohibiting removal of the seals.  In his eyes, and the eyes of many locals, the seals are a hazard to children and pose a health risk to local swimmers.  These must be the same sort of folks that are constantly pushing for mountain lion and black bear eradication.

With human encroachment destroying or disturbing critical haul-out sites along California’s coast, eviction to the seals doesn’t seem quite fair. (It’s also striking that this debate is taking place the doorstep of the world renowned Scripps Institute of Oceanography.)

I agree with the locals and the judge on one thing: harbor seals are a large source of fecal bacteria. But the stigma of poor water quality hasn’t hit the region. Heal the Bay refuses to include Children’s Pool on our Beach Report Card because harbor seals are natural sources of fecal bacteria and people haven’t created artificial nuisance conditions to attract the seals, like open garbage cans attracting gulls.

Perhaps the most galling part of the ruling is that the cost of eviction could be in the near $700,000 range at a time when San Diego County has stopped beach monitoring at over half of its locations because of fiscal constraints.  The judge argued that the harbor seals should be removed to protect public health, yet the county doesn’t even have the funds to monitor all beaches, let alone safeguard the health of ocean users.

Let the harbor seals stay.

There has to be a place to enjoy the wonders of wildlife besides the San Diego Zoo and Sea World.  Besides, I don’t think the locals at the Bay Area’s Pier 39 have suffered much because of the sea lions on the docks there.  It has become a tourist attraction for San Francisco.  San Diego and La Jolla should embrace the harbor seals as a natural and entertaining addition to a beautiful coast.

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One Response

  1. The harbor seals at the Children’s Poll in La Jolla are actually a tourist attraction in their own right. I’ve been following this controversy for years and still don’t get why La Jolla wants to get rid of the seals. They are a wonder.

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