LA JOLLA, Calif. (KGTV) — La Jolla's Children's Pool has closed for the season to make way for seal pupping season on the beach's shore.
The annual closure went into effect Sunday and will extend until May 15, 2020. During the closure, visitors will not be permitted to use the sheltered beach and, much like the rest of the year, be discouraged from getting too close to the seals.
The closure is meant to give harbor seals a safe area to birth and wean their young for the season. Park rangers and lifeguards will monitor the beach to make sure both the public and seals are kept safe.
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City officials began closing the beach for pupping season in 2014, after environmental activists voiced concerns over the safety of young seals born and cared for at the Children's Pool. For years afterward, the city was tied up in litigation over the beach and ability to close it to the public. Critics argued the closures violated the state Coastal Act and the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.
In June 2018, a state appeals court ruled in favor of the city and the ability to close the beach for the season. A year later, the California Coastal Commission renewed a 10-year permit to close the Children's Pool to human access during pupping season.
Critics have threatened to take the matter to the state Supreme Court, but the matter hasn't moved that far as of yet.
The Children's Pool was opened in 1932 as a space for inexperienced swimmers to enjoy the water safely behind a seawall. Seals started convening on the beach in the 1990s and have since used it for pupping season.
The California Coastal Commission has said they believe the water is unsafe due to bacteria levels from the seals and their excrement and encourage visitors to find somewhere else to swim.
Officials have also been forced to post signs warning visitors to keep their distance from seals year-round, as the animals could feel threatened if humans come to close to them or their young.