Sunday, August 10, 2003
Posted on Sat, Apr. 12, 2003
La Jolla residents want seals out of pool
By Barbara Whitaker
NEW YORK TIMES
SAN DIEGO - It is man versus seal in a battle for a patch of prime protected beach in the affluent La Jolla section of San Diego, and it appears the seals are winning.
A recent effort to show that the two could share a section of the beach known as Children's Pool ended badly when a swimmer was attacked by a seal, ending up bruised and scraped. About 30 swimmers had set out from La Jolla Cove to swim to the nearby Children's Pool, but nearly two-thirds were diverted as seals rushed into the water when the swimmers entered.
"For nearly 70 years, man and seal shared this beach successfully," said Anne Cleveland, who participated in the event. "But now I think the balance has been tipped because people have been banned for so long."
Generations of people have grown up swimming in the pool, which opened in 1931 through the largess of a local matriarch, Ellen Browning Scripps. The construction of a half-moon-shaped sea wall created Children's Pool, where youngsters could swim in the ocean safe from heavy surf.
In 1997, city officials were forced to close the Children's Pool section of the beach when unsafe pollution levels -- attributed to seal feces -- were detected. The City Council created a temporary reserve around Seal Rock to protect the seals, which are also protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.
In the absence of humans, the seals, now numbering about 200, have become entrenched. They use the Children's Pool part of the beach for mating and giving birth. Since February at least 14 pups have been born there, observers said.
About 20,000 tourists now visit the area each month to watch the seals bask and play.
But residents trying to reclaim the Children's Pool beach section say the increased tourist traffic is just one more reason to move the seals. The concerns of residents increased last winter with two shark attacks on seals off the beach, which the residents say may mean the seals are attracting sharks.