Mayor Bob Filner issued an emergency order Tuesday closing the Children’s Pool in La Jolla between sunset and sunrise, through May 15, in response to videotaped evidence of people going onto the beach at night to abuse seals that use the area to give birth.
The closure took effect Tuesday.
Filner’s office notes that the which was recently installed as a way to view the seals anytime night or day and to serve as a research tool—captured people crossing the rope barrier at night, kicking, punching and sitting on top of the mother seals and their pups, and driving them from their resting places.
Seals use this beach as to give birth and watch their young during pupping season through May. A guide rope is put up during pupping season as a suggested distance to keep from seals.
“I felt it was important to take this step after evidence of individuals seen on video tape, harassing, taunting and causing stress to the seals at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla. The behavior was shocking, reprehensible and certainly not a reflection of how most citizens in our fine city believe animals should be treated,” Filner said in a statement.
The Western Alliance for Nature, a land conversancy nonprofit, installed the seal webcam atop an old San Diego Lifeguard Tower overlooking the controversial beach in January.
Like the controversy over the length of the guide rope at the man-made beach and the debate between marine mammal protection and beach access advocates, there is already drama with the webcam.
The camera was vandalized just days after it was installed. Wan reported that a liquid was sprayed up onto the lens of the camera overnight. The liquid coated the lens and blurred the video.
A commenter on La Jolla Patch—Califia, who opposed the camera, said:
And now you have enabled a private organization to conduct “research” on anyone crossing the “advisory” rope as if they are criminals. Watching seals is great but not really what the camera was installed for. It will be following any person daring to cross that “advisory” rope barrier and try to make them out as criminals.
Mayor Filner, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Harbor seals took over the beach in the early 1990s, causing strife between animal rights activists and beach-access advocates who want the area returned to its original use as a safe swimming area for children.
“It’s great that the new mayor is being proactive and at least closing the seal rookery at night, when the seals are without any protection, and the rope is not really visible,” said Bryan Pease, a lawyer who represents the Animal Protection and Rescue League.
“This is important for public safety and for protection of the resting marine mammals during their pupping season,” Pease said.
KFMB San Diego noted that the Western Alliance for Nature does not record the footage, it only streams it. The news station said, “that a webcam viewer independently recorded this incident and alerted his group.” It added, that San Diego Police have not citing anyone involved in this alleged incident.
You can watch the video of the alleged attack above.
—City News Service contributed to this report.