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Commission OKs year-round seal barrier on La Jolla beach

Spectators watch slumbering harbor seals from behind a rope barrier at Children's Pool Beach.
Spectators watch slumbering harbor seals from behind a rope barrier at Children's Pool Beach.
David McNew/Getty Images

A contentious battle regarding a year-round rope to protect seals living at Children’s Pool beach in La Jolla came to a head this week, with the California Coastal Commission voting unanimously to approve the permanent barrier. As reported by the La Jolla Patch, the vote came after hours of often-emotional testimony from more than 60 speakers debating the pros and cons of such an enclosure. During testimony, videos were shown of people on both sides of the issue “interacting negatively towards each other.”

“What I think is going on here is not a problem with the seals and it’s not a problem with the rope. It’s a problem with people,” said Commissioner Dayna Bochco during the proceedings. “Nothing will work unless all of you are willing to work together. There are no humans here to be sympathetic with.”

Traditionally, the barrier has been erected during the winter months, which is also pupping season for the community of seals that populate the beach. The permit that the city of San Diego applied for requested the approval to “install and maintain a 4-foot high, 152 linear foot rope barrier with a 3 foot opening for ocean access at the Children’s Pool as a buffer between humans and harbor seals.”

Supporters of the year-round rope say it will benefit the seals, by discouraging harmful interaction with humans. Opponents of the enclosure feel it unfairly inhibits community access to the beach.

Even with the unanimous decision, the rope won’t be going up anytime soon. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, a site development permit from the City Planning Commission is still needed. The Commission’s approval also came with conditions, including a three-year renewal term and close monitoring of both seals and people by qualified professionals at least 16 days out of every month.