Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Evening Edition

San Diego Moves To Protect Sea Lions At La Jolla Point

San Diego recently added signs to encourage people to keep their distance from the La Jolla sea lions on Aug. 4, 2021.
Erik Anderson
San Diego recently added signs to encourage people to keep their distance from the La Jolla sea lions on Aug. 4, 2021.

San Diego is taking emergency action to keep people and sea lions from hurting each other at the rocky shoreline of La Jolla Point.

The city after working with the California Coastal Commission is asking for approval to close the sea lion rookery next to Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Park.

San Diego Moves To Protect Sea Lions At La Jolla Point
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

The tension between the marine mammals who rear their pups on the rugged shoreline and onlookers has been simmering for years.

The attraction of baby sea lions hauled out on the sliver of rocky coast is too enticing for the thousands of people who walk by the region every day.

Local Sierra Club volunteers have been raising the alarm for more than three years and they are quick to share video proof that the animals are being harassed by onlookers.

But not all onlookers ignore the warning on signs and stenciled on a low retaining wall.

RELATED: La Jolla Cove Fireworks Show Canceled Due To Lack Of Permit

Marlin Aguilara, visiting from Kansas City, found the sea lions captivating.

“It’s just very beautiful,” Aguilara said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s my first time actually being here. And I was shocked to see the wildlife right here. Right in front of us.”

But Aguilara followed the rules and kept her distance others ignored the warnings.

People regularly breach the wall separating the sidewalk and rookery.

So city officials hope a temporary emergency closure of the rocky shoreline through mid-September will help minimize dangerous interactions.

“It is imperative that we are taking steps to minimize potential injuries to both the public and the sea lions during pupping season as interactions between the two continue to increase,” said Andy Field, director of the city of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department. “It is of utmost importance that we are protecting adults and children while respecting the sea lions as they care for their young.”

RELATED: Worries Over Nearby Sea Lions Could Derail La Jolla’s July 4th Fireworks Show

The region’s City Council representative thought the problem could be fixed without outside help.

San Diego City Councilmember Joe LaCava thought he had the solution when he publicly addressed the issue in June.

“What we did about a month ago was put out some additional signs. We did some stenciling along that short wall that encouraged people to stay away,” said LaCava. “And that of course did not really get the results that we were hoping for.”

The chance to get a selfie with the marine mammals is too irresistible and the extra signs didn’t stop the interaction.

That puts young sea lion pups in danger as well as people because sea lions will lash out if they feel threatened.

City officials hope a new strong approach during the summer pupping season works.

New stencils warning people to stay away from sea lions at La Jolla Point even though people still ignored the warnings on Aug. 4, 2021.
Erik Anderson
New stencils warning people to stay away from sea lions at La Jolla Point even though people still ignored the warnings on Aug. 4, 2021.

“We will be installing signs that simply say, area closed,” LaCava said. “And the city parks and rec department will determine where to place them. Essentially it will be on the ocean side of that short wall. We’ll also put a chain across the wooden stairway that is at one end of that wall.”

RELATED: San Diego Mayor Will Not Close Public Access To La Jolla Sea Lion Rookery

“It’s a really good start,” said Robin Davidoff, a docent for the Sierra Club’s Seal Society.

“We are really pleased to have that. It’s a really good start. We think that really will help quite a bit. A lot of education is needed and enforcement is needed by the rangers,” Davidoff said.

Advocates for the sea lions have recorded lots of ill-advised interactions between people and marine mammals.

She says access to the rocky shoreline needs to be limited because it’s just too easy to get close right now.

The low wall from Boomer Beach to the end of the point is sometimes the only barrier between people and the sea lions and it doesn’t take much effort to climb over it.

Davidoff suggests a railing on top of that wall could go a long way to separating people and sea lions.

“It not only protects the sea lions. It also protects young children, who might climb over the wall or fall over the wall,” Davidoff said. “And you can touch the sea lions that actually come up to the wall in the evenings. And so the standard railing would help tremendously.”

The signage and access restrictions the city is asking for would only be in place until the middle of September.

Access to the shore would be permitted after the pupping season is over.

But city officials are also considering longer-term solutions which could include cutting off public access to the shore during the summer months.

San Diego Moves To Protect Sea Lions At La Jolla Point