La Jolla Town Council urges City to declare Cove a public health hazard
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 11/25/16 - 02:26 PM | 2 2 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The ball is now in the mayor's court, as La Jolla Town Council (LJTC) issued a call to action, following an LJTC Community Task Force on Sea Lions meeting, urging the city to declare La Jolla Cove a public health hazard while authorizing non-harmful methods of dispersing increasingly problematic sea lions.

The Nov. 10 town council task force meeting preceded the community group's regular monthly meeting at La Jolla Rec Center.

“What we really need, before we go forward, is for the mayor to give authority to the task force to take action instead of doing another study — or passing it off to a city department,” said LJTC president Ann Kerr Bache. “We want local control, local authority. We (LJTC) are a force that has to be reckoned with.”

Noting La Jolla Cove has become “the intersection of man and animals,” Kerr Bache added “we have to find an amenable solution to this man-animal boundary.”

Protected for years by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act which forbids the “taking or harassing of marine mammals,” the population of sea lions and other pinnipeds statewide has been mushrooming causing problems in coastal areas like La Jolla where they've been hauling out — and sometimes displacing people on public beaches.

Dr. Doyle Hanan, of Hanan & Associates Inc., at the City of San Diego's request, recently submitted the results of a year-long research study on local sea lions and their behavior. His study concluded the population of the marine mammals is likely to increase for the foreseeable future. Statistics indicate there are presently 12,000 to 15,000 sea lions along the California coast, with the population growing at a rate of 4 to 5 percent annually.

California sea lions, turning out in ever-greater numbers, have been fouling beaches and stairs leading up to the Cove Lifeguard tower interfering with lifeguards in the performance of their duties. Interactions between sea lions, which can be both aggressive and territorial, and humans, has also been increasing. Many people, especially out of towners, have been glimpsed getting too close to sea lions and taking “selfies” with them, apparently unaware of the potential danger the wild animals present.

Audience members then addressed questions to the task force, with one person noting sea lions have become so numerous, and their waste so pervasive, that the annual La Jolla Rough Water Swim drawing thousands annually had to be canceled this year due to their pollution.

“I've lived here for almost 25 years and I swim in the Cove and the quality of the water is poor there because it's become contaminated,” said Jeffrey Chasan. “We do need to find a mechanism to push the sea lions to a different settlement, get them to stop hauling out at the habitat we've all created.”

“The next step is to develop, and implement, a (deterrence) plan with experts and start phasing it in to move and exclude the sea lions,” said Kerr Bache. “We're (LJTC's) trying to educate the public and provide for their safety.”

But Kerr Bache added, we're (sea lion task force) an organization of less than 12 people and we need your (public's) help.”

Comments
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Sean M
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November 28, 2016
This article mentions the Doyle Hanan report, but misses the report’s main themes, such as better signage, and education. The one fact cited, is wildly out of context -- that the population is growing statewide, when in fact the Hanan report painstakingly shows that the our LJ population is in radical decline. The report proves we were up to 160 in 2015 (with no water quality issues), and we're no down to just a few dozen.

There has been no proven link between the Sea Lions presence and the occasional high bacteria counts (In County DEH samples). Many assume a link, but defy facts. Perhaps the bacteria counts are high because the city is spraying the bluffs down with live bacterial cultures (Blue Eagle "LJ Digester") several times per month? Someone should try to get to the root of this. Is it the Blue Eagle spray, or is it birds? Is it California Sea Lions, or perhaps the storm drain right there in the cove which has been belching run-off from Prospect and coast Blvd on and off for months.

What's needed is a good city park ranger or docent program there to educate the public and multi-lingual signs to help protect everyone and the wildlife from getting too close to each other (and bitten). Lifeguards had been doing this diligently in 2014 and 2015, but have other life-saving priorities.

Stephanie Corkran
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January 10, 2017
Thank you for your comment highlighting the issues with this news story. With signs stating clear distance requirements and the penalty/fine disclosed the rangers (who in my experience are good at education) could write tickets that are defensible in court. The fines collected could fund more ranger patrols/education programs.
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