A sea wall surrounding Casa Beach in La Jolla was given to the city for
multiple use by Elenor Browning Scripps. Since then the ocean became polluted due to humans and people were kept from
entering the water there.
Seals had often used the beach before this, but because no people were
on the beach, they quickly made it their home. A colony of roughly 200 harbor seals (now about 90) began living here,
using the protected beach to give birth to their young and to nurse them. Later the seals would stay on the beach during
This beach is so important because it is the only seal rookery in Southern
California. It is the only place the seals can give birth between Mexico and Carpenteria.
In August 2004, the San Diego City Council voted to remove the rope boundary
and make the beach "shared use" for seals and humans. This was brought about by Councilman Scott Peters who represents
the La Jolla area, pushed by several residents who felt the seals smelled too bad and that they attracted just too many tourists.
The City Council plans to dredge the area which will undoubtedly force all the animals out.
Harassment of the seals soon began. Two seals were stabbed.
Others are continually harassed. We have footage of a newborn seal being kicked by a child. Other incidents involve
people bringing their dogs to the beach to intentionally harass the seals and flush them all into the water. One man
went down the line of seals on the beach and hit each one on the back with a stick to scare them into the water. On
some weekends there are so many people across the line we have raked in the sand that, as the tide comes in, the seals are
unable to get onto dry land. Seal pups, who cannot swim as well as their mothers and who cannot stay underwater as long,
are left in the ocean.
Because of human harassment many seals gave birth prematurely. All
of these pups died, many being washed out to sea still alive. Others were abandoned by their mothers because humans
came too close and separated mother and baby for too long. Some of the pups were left on the beach for days without
food before the federal government could be convinced to step in and rescue the animals.
What is important to remember is that the seals are protected by city,
state, and federal laws. San Diego has a municipal code which protects animals on its beaches. This is being violated
when the seals are being harassed. California laws, including the California Fish and Game Code and the California Environmental
Quality Act, are being violated. Most importantly the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) is being violated.
The MMPA, enacted in 1972, protects all marine mammals and prohibits humans
from harassing or killing them. Harassing includes frightening them by coming too close and forcing them into the water.
Individuals violating this act can be fined over $100 for each animals they scare into the water, and this is often ten or
more animals. Some individuals have been fined.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency responsible
for enforcing the act, has sent agents in from Alaska and Maine to monitor the situation and issue citations.
Four new signs have been put up on the beach, as well as a camera to monitor
the area, and all have done no good. The seals are only safe because compassionate volunteers have taken time from their
lives to sit with these animals and protect them.
Lawsuits have been filed against the city of San Diego. One suit
was brought by local animal protection groups and local citizens. In February of this year The Humane Society of the United States held a press conference and announced that they would sue the city as well.
We need the San Diego City Council to allow this issue back on their agenda
once more and vote to restore the rope boundary protecting the seals, at least for the duration of the pupping season.
Until this rope is restored permanently and existing laws are finally upheld
we will continue our efforts to guard the seals, lobby the city council, and work with other elected officials to see that
these animals are protected.
We need YOUR help to continue these efforts!!