A popular spot in San Diego for tourists and beachgoers has been closed to protect the sea lions who use the rocky shore to breed, nurse, and rest.
San Diego’s city council voted unanimously to close access to Point La Jolla and Boomer Beach after receiving many complaints about people harassing the animals and getting too close to take selfies.
“People will be prevented from actually going on to the rocks at Point La Jolla, and for Boomer’s Beach, if your purpose is to actually get into the water for swimming, for paddleboarding… you’re still going to be allowed to get into the water,” Joe LaCava, the city council member representing La Jolla, told FOX 5.
Activists and some residents praised the year-round closure for the safety of sea lions.
Carol Toye, a member of the Sierra Club Seal Society, made the following statement at the council meeting in support of the closure. “Visitors coming to view the wildlife cannot be adequately briefed by well placed advanced signage due to the very urban environment and spaced out parking areas. This means that visitors often stumble upon resting sea lions and their pups in open areas as there are no markers on how to stay at safe distances. Even rangers operating in the area cannot keep the huge crowds at a safe distance as people approach to take selfies and position their children next to animals. This leads to constant disturbance of sea lion behavior and also puts people at risk.”
She went on to say, “Experienced users will still be able to access the ocean for spear fishing, body surfing and scuba diving (the beach is unsuitable for casual swimmers as it has dangerous rip currents). This is a win-win solution, with minimal cost, without the need to install extra barriers, and is acceptable to all but a minority of locals who wish for the sea lions to leave the area which is not humanly allowed or feasible for a breeding area.”
Cristina Schaffer who has lived in the area for over 20 years told NBC 7, “I don’t think the state has enough money to have a full-time ranger here, explaining how to respect the animals to people who really think they can pet every little baby sea lion that they see. I think it’s just [the city’s] way of trying to find a balance.”
La Jolla attracts tourists who hope to see the sea lions and take photos. While people are still encouraged to visit, they are urged to keep a distance of at least 50 feet and observe the sea lions from afar. Anyone found interfering or causing distress to the sea lions will face fines.
Sea lions rest on the shore and rocks for a reason. The NOAA Fisheries posted a warning that forcing tired or injured sea lions back into the water can cause them to drown.
“Remember, seals need to rest on the beaches and they know when to return to the water on their own. Approaching or forcing seals into the water can cause stress or injury. Please give them space to rest and keep pets away! Think a seal needs help? Call our trained NOAA response network: 866-755-6622 or contact your local rescue organization.”
The La Jolla Cove remains open to the public so residents and tourists can enjoy the beautiful coast. LaCava reassured locals this beach will remain open. “That’s where we are drawing the line. The La Jolla Cove beach is such a critical part of the recreational for folks who live in the area, for visitors in the area. It’s part of what makes us world famous about we are going to keep La Jolla Cove Beach open.”
The closure of Point La Jolla and Boomer Beach will remain in effect for the next seven years with gates and signs deterring people from entering the area.