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Humans will be kept away from La Jolla sea lions May-October

Boomer Beach open, no dogs ever in Point La Jolla

Last spring and summer, the commission received more complaints than ever about people bothering the animals.
Last spring and summer, the commission received more complaints than ever about people bothering the animals.

It's illegal to harass sea lions, but even warning signs haven't stopped La Jolla beach-goers from petting and feeding them. Troubles ramp up during pupping season, when the animals spend more time on the beaches and bluffs.

Now, after a long fight that has pitted beach-users and business interests against sea lion advocates, plans to close Point La Jolla each year during pupping season, which typically lasts from May through October, are nearing completion.

Updated boundaries on sea lion area

On Friday, April 8, the California Coastal Commission will hold a hearing to consider approving an application by San Diego Parks and Recreation to close beach access to Point La Jolla, an area between Boomer Beach and La Jolla Cove, for part of the year.

While the sea lion population has been steadily growing in California, no area has seen as many human-animal conflicts as La Jolla. Last spring and summer, the commission received more complaints than ever about people bothering the animals.

"Reports included the death of one sea lion pup and several reports of injury to sea lions from visitor harassment, both accidental and malicious."

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In August, the volume of complaints, which had begun in 2014, prompted the city to issue a five-week emergency closure of Point La Jolla. Signs were posted, a wooden stairway to the beach was closed, and park rangers kept watch.

According to San Diego Coastkeeper, despite the temporary closure of the rookery, over 300 visitors were observed by volunteer docents last summer illegally touching, petting, taking selfies, and picking up pups.

However, the docents also informed the commission that there were fewer incidents during the emergency shutdown. That led to the city's current application with the commission for an annual closure of Point La Jolla from May 25 to September 15.

The city's proposal has its critics, even among the advocates who brought the problem to their attention. Sierra Club San Diego Chapter and the Sierra Club Seal Society consider the closure dates too short and the boundaries too small.

The La Jolla Community Planning Association asked the commission to exclude Boomer Beach - where sea lion advocates say over 40 percent of pups were born in 2021.

La Jolla Parks and Beaches want a lengthy environmental review to get the city beyond decisions "based on reactions to those groups that make the most noise."

Under the city's proposal, signs will be posted as they were during the emergency closure, and a chain will block the wooden stairs at the border of Point La Jolla and La Jolla Cove.

According to the application, water recreation will be provided at Boomer Beach, marked by a “Water Access Only” sign. K-rails will be used to create a path from the top of the bluff to Boomer Beach to allow for ocean use such as swimming and spearfishing.

Outside the boundary, wildlife and water views can still be had from the sidewalk and grass areas.

As sea lion advocates have called for, one to two city park rangers will monitor the area year-round during peak hours. And for the first time, dogs will be prohibited in Point La Jolla year-round.

The commission has made several recommendations for revisions in order to approve the project.

For one, the closure period needs to be longer at both ends, starting May 1 and lasting through October 31st "to capture the full extent of the sea lion mating and pupping season."

According to the commission's ecologist, it would give the pups needed time to bond with their mothers and learn to swim, and help shield the public from aggressive animals during mating season.

Another condition requires the city to submit a final signage plan that includes posting signs even outside the closure period. The city must submit a monitoring plan that measures the level of use by sea lions of the haul out site, and assesses the effect on halting harassment.

Worries about what happens when the restrictions are lifted each year led the commission to require the city to submit a long-term management plan for Point La Jolla by November 1, 2022. It must contain strategies to reduce harassment outside of pupping season, and at the same time, maximize public access.

It's possible that the sea lions could naturally migrate to another site, making the ongoing closure unnecessary, the commission says. But it's also possible that allowing ocean access at Boomer Beach will undermine the whole plan.

So, the commission wants to limit the permit to seven years, which coincides with the end of their approvals for a similar seasonal closure to protect harbor seals at nearby Children’s Pool.

That will let the city and the commission "holistically review the issue of marine mammal management in La Jolla."

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Last spring and summer, the commission received more complaints than ever about people bothering the animals.
Last spring and summer, the commission received more complaints than ever about people bothering the animals.

It's illegal to harass sea lions, but even warning signs haven't stopped La Jolla beach-goers from petting and feeding them. Troubles ramp up during pupping season, when the animals spend more time on the beaches and bluffs.

Now, after a long fight that has pitted beach-users and business interests against sea lion advocates, plans to close Point La Jolla each year during pupping season, which typically lasts from May through October, are nearing completion.

Updated boundaries on sea lion area

On Friday, April 8, the California Coastal Commission will hold a hearing to consider approving an application by San Diego Parks and Recreation to close beach access to Point La Jolla, an area between Boomer Beach and La Jolla Cove, for part of the year.

While the sea lion population has been steadily growing in California, no area has seen as many human-animal conflicts as La Jolla. Last spring and summer, the commission received more complaints than ever about people bothering the animals.

"Reports included the death of one sea lion pup and several reports of injury to sea lions from visitor harassment, both accidental and malicious."

Sponsored
Sponsored

In August, the volume of complaints, which had begun in 2014, prompted the city to issue a five-week emergency closure of Point La Jolla. Signs were posted, a wooden stairway to the beach was closed, and park rangers kept watch.

According to San Diego Coastkeeper, despite the temporary closure of the rookery, over 300 visitors were observed by volunteer docents last summer illegally touching, petting, taking selfies, and picking up pups.

However, the docents also informed the commission that there were fewer incidents during the emergency shutdown. That led to the city's current application with the commission for an annual closure of Point La Jolla from May 25 to September 15.

The city's proposal has its critics, even among the advocates who brought the problem to their attention. Sierra Club San Diego Chapter and the Sierra Club Seal Society consider the closure dates too short and the boundaries too small.

The La Jolla Community Planning Association asked the commission to exclude Boomer Beach - where sea lion advocates say over 40 percent of pups were born in 2021.

La Jolla Parks and Beaches want a lengthy environmental review to get the city beyond decisions "based on reactions to those groups that make the most noise."

Under the city's proposal, signs will be posted as they were during the emergency closure, and a chain will block the wooden stairs at the border of Point La Jolla and La Jolla Cove.

According to the application, water recreation will be provided at Boomer Beach, marked by a “Water Access Only” sign. K-rails will be used to create a path from the top of the bluff to Boomer Beach to allow for ocean use such as swimming and spearfishing.

Outside the boundary, wildlife and water views can still be had from the sidewalk and grass areas.

As sea lion advocates have called for, one to two city park rangers will monitor the area year-round during peak hours. And for the first time, dogs will be prohibited in Point La Jolla year-round.

The commission has made several recommendations for revisions in order to approve the project.

For one, the closure period needs to be longer at both ends, starting May 1 and lasting through October 31st "to capture the full extent of the sea lion mating and pupping season."

According to the commission's ecologist, it would give the pups needed time to bond with their mothers and learn to swim, and help shield the public from aggressive animals during mating season.

Another condition requires the city to submit a final signage plan that includes posting signs even outside the closure period. The city must submit a monitoring plan that measures the level of use by sea lions of the haul out site, and assesses the effect on halting harassment.

Worries about what happens when the restrictions are lifted each year led the commission to require the city to submit a long-term management plan for Point La Jolla by November 1, 2022. It must contain strategies to reduce harassment outside of pupping season, and at the same time, maximize public access.

It's possible that the sea lions could naturally migrate to another site, making the ongoing closure unnecessary, the commission says. But it's also possible that allowing ocean access at Boomer Beach will undermine the whole plan.

So, the commission wants to limit the permit to seven years, which coincides with the end of their approvals for a similar seasonal closure to protect harbor seals at nearby Children’s Pool.

That will let the city and the commission "holistically review the issue of marine mammal management in La Jolla."

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The latest copy of the Reader

Please enjoy this clickable Reader flipbook. Linked text and ads are flash-highlighted in blue for your convenience. To enhance your viewing, please open full screen mode by clicking the icon on the far right of the black flipbook toolbar.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
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