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Sierra Club calls on city to take steps to stop sea lion harassment

Alexandra Rangel
/
KPBS
A large crowd taking pictures too close to the sea lions at the Point La Jolla rookery in La Jolla on Dec. 10, 2021.

The sea lions in Point La Jolla and Boomer Beach are huge tourist attractions.

Currently, about 300 people an hour make their way to that part of the coast, but the Sierra Club’s San Diego Chapter and the Sierra Club Seal Society are urging Mayor Todd Gloria and the city of San Diego to close the sea lion rookery at Point La Jolla and Boomer Beach.

Carol Toye is a volunteer for the Sierra Club Seal Society.

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“The issue is that people are getting too close, some of that will lead to harassment as it’s defined by the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” Toye said. “But also they will be preventing the sea lions from using the area and also putting themselves in danger.”

Extreme forms of harassment involve people touching, kicking and even throwing sand at the sea lions.

“The other form of harassment is actually modifying their behavior. So, that is like interfering with the nursing of pups and mums,” Toye said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration does have guidelines in place that people should stay at least 50 feet away from these sea lions.

But the Sierra Club volunteers are the only ones here to encourage people to keep their distance.

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There are several red spray painted warning signs on the wall in front of the bluffs that were put into place in June of this year, but they don’t do much to deter people from climbing over this wall and getting dangerously too close to these wild animals.

The crowds are forcing the sea lions to the very edge of the bluffs and pups are even getting separated from their moms, preventing them from nursing.

The city is currently working on a new Coastal Development Permit for next summer, but during the California Coastal Commissionmeeting in November, many officials said something needs to be done now.

Commissioner Sara Aminzadeh says the sea lion situation has been an issue for years.

“I’ve seen it myself and it is quite disturbing and a really pervasive issue,” Aminzadeh said.

Locals like Bay Park resident William Rodriguez love this area, but think people should respect the sea lions’ space.

“The animals are beautiful. This is a very nice place,” Rodriguez said. “However they should keep a distance and leave them alone. It’s like me looking at you in the morning and you’re trying to take a rest or something and somebody’s watching you.”

Both Sierra Club branches hope to meet with Mayor Gloria and have the city issue an emergency closure like it did back in August until the Coastal Development Plan is completed.

Sierra Club calls on city to take steps to stop sea lion harassment