More than 100 people attended the fundraiser held at Images of Nature art gallery featuring Thomas Mangelsen’s wildlife photography at 7916 Girard Ave.
“Tom couldn’t be here but he donated a couple of (photographic) images,” said gallery manager Kathy Hatch, noting the gallery “serves nonprofits.”
“We’d be glad to host the other side,” Hatch said.
For years, the seal rookery at Casa Beach has been a lightning rod of contention between seal advocates and pro-beach-access proponents who’ve dueled over which species should control the pocket beach.
Seal advocates argue the rookery is an environmental treasure, deserving complete protection that should ultimately be turned into a wildlife refuge. Beach-access proponents insist Children’s Pool, a gift by La Jolla philanthopist Ellen Browning Scripps, should be held in trust in perpetuity, preserving the pool as a place for children to wade in safely, and for divers, fishermen and other recreationalists to indulge their pursuits.
The city has a shared-use policy in effect at the beach, supporting the status quo and a sometimes- uneasy truce between the two contending sides.
At the fundraiser, former county Supervisor Pam Slater-Price noted the seal cam is “a very expensive undertaking, more than just a little foundation can absorb.”
Before presenting Filner with an award — a framed seal cam photo of Casa Beach — for his ongoing support of the seal cam and protecting seals at Children’s Pool, Slater-Price said, “Bob’s willing to take on this issue that’s controversial. But that doesn’t bother him. If it’s not controversial, he’s not interested.”
“I don’t understand the controversy. This should be a no-brainer,” said Filner, who’s taken a strong stand in favor of greater wildlife and environmental protection. “We have this incredible piece of nature and we are part of a whole, and it’s so precious. We should protect it.”
The mayor noted wildlife protection dovetails neatly with his administration’s other environmental initiatives.
“Here’s my bumper sticker for the next four years: zero percent trash, 100 percent renewable energy and zero carbon emissions,” he said.
Concerning the Children’s Pool, former City Councilwoman Donna Frye, who helped with permitting and other issues involving the seal cam said, “There is a great need for a management plan we (City Council) put together in 2010 requiring a year-round rope and nighttime and daytime beach closures during pupping season.”
Asked if she thought the seal cam was a good way to people watch, Frye replied, “I actually prefer to watch the seals. I find them much more interesting.”
But the ex-councilwoman warned, “Do not expect them [seals] to have a top hat and balance a ball on their nose: They’re not there to entertain us.”
Also at the fundraiser, Larry Han of Western Alliance for Nature, a nonprofit that set up the seal cam and that has paid for it and been overseeing its operation, said, “It’s been a record year for seal births. It’s because weve protected it.”
Han added the seal cam operates 24/7, even at night with infrared.
Noting the seal cam cost about $70,000, Han pointed out it’s worth the price because the seals “attract thousands of tourists … It really is an economic asset to the city.”
Sara Han, who organized the fundraiser, said after the event was pleased by how things turned out.
“We’re going to net over $5,000 for the seal cam,” she said, adding the money is much needed as the nonprofit Western Alliance “can’t run this for very long because we can’t completely count on volunteers … At some point, we’re going to have to hire a program manager.”
Han added fundraiser attendance far exceeded expectations, adding, “It was a tremendous success, just a great evening and I think everybody enjoyed themselves.”