SAN DIEGO -- Pupping season for the San Diego area's harbor seals begins Tuesday, which means the city's ban on people going down to the beach at the Children's Pool in La Jolla will take effect.
In March 2014, the City Council passed the ban after a rope barrier failed to discourage people from bothering the seals and their offspring.
City staff reported that a ranger posted to the Children's Pool personally witnessed 30 occasions over a recent one-year period when seals were forced back into the water by humans -- half during pupping season.
Supporters of the prohibition said there were actually many more instances when that happened.
People will not be allowed on the beach between Dec. 15 and May 15, which is when the seals give birth and wean their young. The rope barrier will remain up the rest of the year.
This Facebook video, posted on Monday, appears to show some visitors getting very close to the seals despite the barrier:
Signs are in place to inform the public of the closure, and city staff will monitor the area and provide enforcement of the closure as appropriate.
The Children's Pool was deeded to the city in 1931 to be a safe swimming spot for youngsters. Seals moved into the area in the 1990s and have become the focus of a dispute between animal-rights supporters and beach-access advocates.
The city's prohibition was greenlighted for five years by the California Coastal Commission. Staff with the state agency reported that water quality is poor in the area because of the seals, so it is not a good place for swimming, anyway. Several nearby beaches with better water quality can be used, some within walking distance, the staff said.
Opponents of the ban contend the seal population is exploding and that 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.