City Council approves annual closure of Point La Jolla during sea lion whelping season

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Sea lions are found along the coast as the waves of the Royal Tide hit the coast in La Jolla.
Sea lions are found along the coast as the waves of the Royal Tide hit the coast in La Jolla. Photo by Chris Stone

the San Diego City Council Tuesday approved an annual seasonal closure of Point La Jolla and Boomer Beach during the sea lion denning season – May 1 through October 31.

The closure, authorized by the California Coastal Commission on April 8, aims to ensure the safety and health of visitors to the area and sea lions. It will be in effect for seven years.

“Today’s action codifies the boundaries and timing of the closure and achieves what all parties to this issue want – greater enforcement,” said Councilman Joe LaCava, who represents District 1 and favorite beaches of sea lions. “This effort was only possible with the contribution of the Mayor’s Office, the Parks and Recreation Department, our lifeguards, advocates, La Jolla community groups and more than 1,500 people who responded to the public survey.

“With their input, we have reached a compromise that preserves access to the ocean and keeps the public at a safe distance to enjoy the natural wildlife of our coastline,” LaCava said.

The closure covers the rocky shoreline known as Point La Jolla from the Conrad F. Limbaugh and Harold F. Riley memorial plaque – northwest of La Jolla Cove – to the stepping stone adjacent to the concrete low wall, a relatively small adjoining rocky land Ellen Browning Scripps Park.

The action also protects the rest of Boomer Beach as an ocean access area for those accessing the water for bodysurfing, swimming, or spearfishing. According to LaCava, the design reflects feedback received during a public engagement period and balances restricting access to the rookery during calving season with preserving access to water.

“With the growing population of sea lions, Point La Jolla has become a popular tourist destination for the public to see these wild animals up close,” says a city staff report on the proposal. “As a result, interactions between sea lions and the public have increased, leading to reports of animal harassment. Members of the public have been observed trying to
touching, taking “selfies” and getting as close as possible to the sea lions, which is potentially dangerous not only for the animals, but also for the public. »

Sea lion whelping season is a critical time for mothers and their young to bond, nurse and learn to swim. Human interactions with adult sea lions and their cubs during this time could result in injury and/or abandonment of sea lion offspring, as well as aggressive behavior of adult sea lions.

Before proposing a closure last year, the city began public education efforts to encourage appropriate and safe behavior. When the harassment incidents and disputes continued, the California Coastal Commission ordered the city to take emergency action and close Point La Jolla for the second half of the calving season. According to city documents, that initial shutdown worked, with reports of incidents becoming almost non-existent.

“Over the years we have witnessed – I have witnessed – bullying behavior that has endangered sea lions at birth, their young and endangered the safety of the public and their children interacting with animals. wildlife,” LaCava said. “Today’s vote is the culmination of a year-long effort to safely preserve this unique wildlife experience while representing visitor and wildlife interests.”

The decision also bans all dogs from the point – except service dogs – year-round as well as fireworks at Ellen Browning Scripps Park during the seasonal closure. Park rangers will be posted nearby with the power to issue penalties and fines.

City News Service contributed to this article.

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