The Sierra Club Seal Society responds to the guest comment “An environmental report is needed to study the impacts of seals and sea lions in La Jolla” (August 25, La Jolla Light). In the comment, Mr. [Kurt] Hoffman blames the presence of the unique colonies of seals and sea lions for everything from litter left by humans in Scripps Park to increased traffic jams in The Village, eroding cliffs, increased vendors and even closure from a t-shirt store!
These misrepresentations and comparisons between unrelated items are hallmarks of misinformation. Most people would agree that his conclusions are outlandish.
La Jolla has changed from the early days when there was less tourism and the parks and coasts were less crowded than today. Tourism increased as La Jolla successfully promoted itself as a premier San Diego destination with fine dining, shopping, wildlife, and scenery. In fact, The Cove is considered one of the best beaches in America, according to Tripadvisor. Irresponsible tourism, lack of parking and public transit, and shortage of park support services fuel most local concerns. It is a mistake to attribute them to California’s natural marine environment, including sea lions and their plump hatchlings.
La Jolla is blessed with marine reserves, a deep underwater canyon and a kelp forest that attract marine life and mammals, including seals and sea lions, garibaldi (California saltwater fish ), leopard sharks, stingrays and even turtles. Statistics show that seal numbers have not increased since the children’s pool was closed for pupping season in 2014, and sea lion numbers have remained stable at less than 200 since extensive counts undertaken to the 2017 Hanan Report commissioned by the City of San Diego.
The presence of sea lions and seals, however, creates incredible sights and experiences for visitors from around the world, as La Jolla is the only place where pinnipeds give birth and raise their young in an urban environment. Plus, it’s free ! Tourists spend hours mesmerized by the birth of a baby seal, baby sea lions playing at the water’s edge to test their swimming skills, and male bulls fighting for territory and the right to mate. Many businesses such as dive shops, snorkel and kayak tours, and even restaurants and other stores rely on La Jolla’s wildlife habitat to attract customers year-round.
Sea lions regularly bodysurf the waves of Boomer Beach and perform incredible 360 degree aerial flips off the back of a wave just for fun. They also climb on top of each other and rest in a position that resembles a yoga pose, honoring the sun. They are very intelligent and curious by nature and often interact with divers. Simply, they entertain the public.
Could these mischievous sea lions be responsible for the relatively new nursery of juvenile white sharks off Torrey Pines? [State Beach], as suggested in the comment? Chris Lowe, who runs the Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach, says no.
The Shark Nursery near Scripps Pier is over a mile from the Sea Lion Colony and The Cove. In the PBS documentary mentioned in the comment (bit.ly/3T3xm0G), Lowe says the white shark nursery has moved up the coast from Santa Barbara, likely drawn to warmer waters. Juveniles feed on abundant stingrays and bats, not seals and sea lions. How does he know? No seal or sea lion remains were found in the stomachs of dead young white sharks.
Shark Lab has been tagging juveniles for many years and has found that they leave the San Diego coast for deeper waters when they reach adulthood. Juvenile sharks in Torrey Pines waters may look large but seem to co-exist with people surfing, paddleboarding or sharing the ocean.
Finally, the author requested an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) from La Jolla. He knows that over the past few years the city has reviewed several DIE applications and each time the city has determined that it is not necessary or required by law. The most recent request was denied earlier this year. The California Coastal Commission accepted the city’s decision. Further demands would only waste city resources and taxpayer dollars.
Ocean lovers and other interested parties should work together to protect La Jolla’s areas of special biological importance from destructive human activities (pollution, waste, harassment, erosion and overexploitation) and adopt a “swim in harmony” with the inhabitants of the ocean. world. Seals and sea lions are part of La Jolla’s environment and its ecosystem.
The Sierra Club Seal Society continues to seek realistic ways to find solutions based on environmental expert opinion, data collection, and experience in managing human-wildlife interactions. We welcome thoughtful discussions rather than assigning blame for things unrelated to La Jolla’s unique sea lions and seals.
Robyn Davidoff is president of the Sierra Club Seal Society. ◆