Childrens behavior

Coastal Commission gives its opinion on the management of the “out of control” situation of humans and sea lions at Point La Jolla

As the city of San Diego explores a permit to close Point La Jolla during the next sea lion calving season, animal rights activists have come to the California Coastal Commission to make their case.

Several members of the Sierra Club Seal Society and the Sierra Club of San Diego spoke during public comments at a commission meeting last month, and while no action was taken, some commissioners have called ongoing cases of people getting too close and harassing sea lions “out of control” and “quite disturbing”.

Point La Jolla, a rocky area between La Jolla Cove Beach and Boomer Beach where sea lions often go ashore to rest, was urgently closed for five weeks in late summer to keep people away sea ​​lions. Point La Jolla is also a sea lion calving area where the annual calving season is recognized from June 1 to October 31.

Seal Society docent Ellen Shively said Point La Jolla is “one of the few sea lion colonies in California, offering the public the rare chance to see intact sea lion colonies interacting with their normal behaviors in the sea. a colony. It is a popular tourist attraction… one can see crowds of people congregating all year round around wild sea lions with no direction or orientation or even knowing that there are recommended viewing guidelines.

She told Commissioners that “you have helped us with harbor seals in the past [by recommending a seasonal closure of the Children’s Pool, where harbor seals haul out during their pupping season]. Please use your influence now to help improve the mismanagement.

During the emergency shutdown, which was in effect from August 10 to September 16, the sand and cliffs were closed to the public. The border consisted of the stairs to the beach to the north, the concrete wall along the promenade to the east, and a plastic barrier to the south about 25 feet from the end of the metal railing. along Boomer Beach. The start of the trail to Boomer Beach has been left open to the public.

Volunteer docents and a ranger were on hand to help enforce the closure.

The docente Elena Tillman called it a “crisis situation at Point La Jolla”, where “there was such severe human harassment of these sea lions”. The emergency closure has “worked very well”, she said, but now that the closure is not in effect, there is no management plan.

Ahead of the area’s reopening in September, San Diego City Councilor Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, sent a notice to community leaders that the city would follow up with more closures during calving seasons. following. However, he said there would be time and opportunities for public comment. The effort would involve a permit for which the city has not yet applied.

“The settlement area is tiny compared to the miles of coastline for beachgoers… people can literally go anywhere else,” Tillman said. She asked the commission to “act quickly” once the permit application has been submitted.

Docent Carol Archibald argued that due to the puppies’ needs, the shutdown should be six months.

Docent and Jonathan Harrison, a resident of La Jolla, said that since the end of the emergency shutdown, “the harassment and provocation has returned more cruel than ever and our number of sea lion cubs since then has been on the decline. … It is imperative that the commission act now.

After the meeting, Richard Miller, Chapter Director of the Sierra Club of San Diego, said: “We urge the city to accept another emergency closure, due to the increasing number of visitors and the lack of supervision. rangers, until a coastal development plan is agreed.

LaCava policy director Brian Elliott said the city sets a 180-day (roughly six-month) follow-up deadline each time an emergency coastal development permit is issued – as with the Point closure. La Jolla at the end of the summer – so that he can respond to any future recommendations.

“This work is still in progress,” said Elliott. He added that staff hope to have something by early January for the community to review.

“Advisor LaCava wants to go out to the community with these details when those details become available,” he said.

Responding to comments at the meeting, Commissioners who saw the area firsthand wondered if they could be a little more involved.

Commissioner Sara Aminzadeh called the people who interact with and touch sea lions a “pervasive problem” and “quite disturbing”.

Vice President Donne Brownsey said that “people want to have this experience with wildlife, not realizing that they are putting these creatures at risk.”

In other areas, she said, there are telescopes to provide a viewing experience without getting too close. “Maybe it’s an idea to help the city find alternatives, but there must be barriers or fences. Otherwise, people will continue to adopt this behavior, ”she said.

Commissioner Zahirah Mann said she was “really concerned about what’s going on there” and questioned the city’s schedule for a permit application. “This problem is urgent now, so what are the other options beyond waiting for the city to apply for a permit?” “

Karl Schwing, district director of the San Diego Coast and South Coast commission, said, “At this point, we think the city is in the best position to make a difference here, and we’ve been working with the city. to come up with an app to handle the situation with a seasonal shutdown and a few other steps. We urged them to do so quickly. “

Commission executive director Jack Ainsworth said the situation at Point La Jolla “is out of control” and the commission “needs to be creative” in devoting resources such as a ranger to enforce regulations. rules.

He said the city and the coastal commission need to work together and lack the capacity to independently execute a seasonal shutdown.

“The political pressure has to be on the city,” Ainsworth said. “It’s a state and regional problem; it is not just a resource in this area. … These neighborhoods are becoming more and more popular and these conflicts continue. You need robust systems and rules and management measures in place. Our challenge is to work with the city to get things done as quickly as possible. ”

Elliott said city staff are working with the Coast Commission and stakeholders on what to come up with. “It is actively worked and discussed,” he said. ??

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