Each year, hundreds of visitors repeatedly touch, pet, take selfies with, pick up, and disturb sea lions at Boomer’s Beach and Point La Jolla in San Diego. We are urgently requesting that the City of San Diego take immediate action to curb the frequent, illegal harassment and disturbance of these animals.
Sea lions versus seals
Sea lions, not to be confused with seals, are brown, bark loudly, “walk” on land using their large flippers and have visible ear flaps. On the other hand (or flipper), seals have smaller flippers, are quieter, wriggle on their bellies on land, and lack visible ear flaps.
**This is unrelated to the contentiously debated issue of harbor seals at Children’s Pool Beach in La Jolla.**
Harassment of California sea lions at Boomer’s Beach and Point La Jolla
San Diego Coastkeeper’s advocacy team recently submitted a letter to the Mayor of San Diego and the City Council urgently requesting that the City of San Diego take immediate action to curb the frequent, illegal harassment and disturbance of California sea lions at Boomer’s Beach and Point La Jolla.
Last summer, over 300 visitors at any given time were observed illegally touching, petting, taking selfies with, picking up pups, and repeatedly disturbing these animals. In September and October 2020, City rangers working only on weekends counted over 400 visitors illegally harassing the sea lions.
The City is well aware of this problem via press reports, video recordings, photos, phone calls, and emails documenting repeated instances of harassment of the sea lions and reports of sea lion injuries or fatalities sustained due to both accidental and malicious interactions by humans.
Keeping sea lion pups safe
The annual sea lion pupping and breeding season occurs in late May through October 31. During the first four months of a pup’s life, they cannot swim well, putting them in great danger of drowning when people block their path to dry land during high tides. In addition, they risk being abandoned by their mothers if humans touch them during the first two months of life. Mothers nurse their pups for up to 12 months as pups cannot forage for food themselves until they are eight months old.
Public safety is another major concern and reason for people to keep a reasonable distance from sea lions. When people encroach on the sea lions’ space, they can growl, bite, and chase them away. The terrain at Point La Jolla and Boomer’s Beach is rocky and uneven sandstone, which is very slippery, potentially causing visitors to lose their balance and fall.
Protect the sea lion rookery
California sea lions are highly intelligent social pinnipeds near the top of the food chain and are vital to ecosystem balance. They are also under the protection of the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (“MMPA”), California Coastal Act, State Wildlife laws, and the City Municipal Code. Unfortunately, these laws and regulations have been routinely ignored.
We support the following actions by the City of San Diego to protect both sea lions and the public.
- Close all public access to Boomer’s Beach and Point La Jolla during the pupping season from May 1st to October 31st.
- Staff rangers at the rookery year-round.
- Identify, implement, and enforce a specific distance for people to stay away from sea lions.
- Prohibit dogs at Point La Jolla and Boomer’s beach year-round.
Please consider sharing your input by submitting a response to the City of San Diego’s Point La Jolla Sea Lion Survey.