Activists claim seal cam is turning into peep show, want injunction to shut it down

SAN DIEGO - It is the latest twist in the seal saga in La Jolla: a looming legal showdown over the so-called seal cam.

Cheryl Aspenleiter says images of beachcombers changing outside a shower area and women sunning themselves are from the online, live-streaming seal cam, which is mounted above the Children's Pool to watch the seals.

Aspenleiter wants to know -- where are the seals in the photos?

"The photos I'm seeing, it looks like some creepy peep show," said Aspenleiter.

Aspenleiter leads the group Restore Access to Many People, which is one of the groups that would be like to return the Children's Pool to humans.

"You can see the camera moving and following people and you can see good-looking girls go to the showers … the camera goes right over there," she said. "The camera can look down and view you. I feel uncomfortable going down there."

Pattie Buchanan also favors returning the beach to humans.    

"I see the camera zooming in on women daily because I monitor that seal cam," said Buchanan.

Buchanan and Aspenleiter are part of a group hoping to file for an injunction to shut down the cameras, citing an invasion of privacy.

Championed by Mayor Bob Filner, the seal cam – partly funded by the city – is run by the nonprofit Western Alliance for Nature, which uses volunteers around the world to remotely monitor the camera.    

10News went to the group with the peep show claim.

"That is absolute nonsense," said Sara Wan, the cofounder of the group.

The group's leaders say the camera moves around to watch out for any threats to the seals and will sometimes catch people in the shots.

"This is a public beach. People come to a public beach and can have no expectation of privacy. Nobody is looking at anybody in any way to violate their privacy," said Wan.

She calls the injunction attempt a desperate tactic. The group points out the cameras routinely catch people harassing seals.

When asked if it was an attempt to shut down the cameras so seals can be more easily harassed, Aspenleiter said, "Absolutely not."

Aspenleiter said she has never harassed a seal but does want to make sure seals are the main focus of the seal cam.

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