Children's Pool closed as pupping season begins

Posted at 1:51 PM, Dec 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-16 16:51:19-05

SAN DIEGO - The city of San Diego Friday closed the beach at the Children's Pool in La Jolla to protect harbor seals during their pupping season, just a few days after officials said the area would remain open to the public to comply with a court ruling.

The turnabout stemmed from an appellate court ruling that lifted an automatic stay in the case. If the stay had remained in place, the city would have had to allow people onto the beach.

The City Council in March 2014 approved a ban on public access at the picturesque location between Dec. 15 and May 15, when the seals give birth and wean their young. The action, applauded by wildlife advocates, came after instances in which people harassed newborn seals and their mothers.

However, opponents fighting for beach access rights sued, and a judge in Orange County took their side in a May ruling. The judge found that the council and California Coastal Commission failed to follow proper administrative procedures in developing the ordinance.

The city appealed and asked for the automatic stay to be removed now that pupping season has started.

City park rangers and lifeguards will monitor the Children's Pool during the beach closure to keep the public and wildlife safe, a statement from the city said.

The Children's Pool was deeded to the city in 1931 to be used as a safe swimming spot, but the seals moved into the area in the 1990s -- leading to the controversy.

According to Coastal Commission staff, water quality is poor in the area because of the seals, so it is no longer a good place for swimming.

Opponents of the ban contend the seal population is exploding and they are not a threatened or endangered species.

The public is still allowed access to the area's breakwater for walking, fishing or viewing the seals.