SAN DIEGO - Mayor Bob Filner issued an emergency order to close the Children's Pool in La Jolla between sunset and sunrise, beginning Tuesday night, in response to alleged abuse of harbor seals captured on videotape.
The nighttime closure will remain in effect until the official end of seal pupping season on May 15, Filner said.
According to the mayor's office, the recently installed seal cam captured images of people breaching a rope barrier at night, kicking, punching and sitting on top of the mother seals and their pups, and driving them from their resting places. The rope barrier is meant to discourage people from going onto the beach to disturb seals during pupping season.
"I felt it was important to take this step after evidence of individuals seen on videotape, harassing, taunting and causing stress to the seals at the Children's Pool in La Jolla," Filner said. "The behavior was shocking, reprehensible and certainly not a reflection of how most citizens in our fine city believe animals should be treated."
Filner's signs first went up at dusk on Tuesday. Anyone seen on the beach after dark will be cited, and an officer positioned above the beach will make sure of it. Filner told 10News, however, there will not be an overnight patrol and no additional cost to taxpayers.
"You can disagree with us on the policy issues about how you share the beach but you cannot abuse animals," Filner said.
Harbor seals took over the beach in the early 1990s, causing strife between animal rights activists and beach-access advocates who want the area returned to its original use as a safe swimming area for children.
"It's great that the new mayor is being proactive and at least closing the seal rookery at night, when the seals are without any protection, and the rope is not really visible," said Bryan Pease, a lawyer who represents the Animal Protection and Rescue League.
"This is important for public safety and for protection of the resting marine mammals during their pupping season," Pease said.
Animal rights groups have frequently claimed videotaped documentation of people annoying the seals on the beach.
The seal cam was recently placed on a lifeguard tower that's slated for demolition. Its images are frequently broadcast on CityTV, the city of San Diego's cable outlet.
The webcam's images are available on the lower right of the mayor's web page at sandiego.gov/mayor.