Videotape showing women abusing seals on San Diego beach causes uproar over access

A group that has spent years fighting for public access to a San Diego beach used by seals was not helped by two women who were videotaped abusing the mammals at night. As a result of footage, which shows one of the women kicking and shoving a seal, Mayor Bob Filner ordered the immediate overnight closure of Children’s Pool beach.

“I felt it was important to take this step after evidence of individuals seen on videotape harassing, taunting, and causing stress to the seals,” Filner said Tuesday in a statement.

This is the height of pupping season at Children’s Pool, a tiny sheltered beach in the San Diego community of La Jolla. During the day, visitors are asked to remain behind a rope that provides space for harbor seals to rest and nurse their young, even if they’re under constant scrutiny from tourists.

SealsThe overnight closure will be enforced until May 15, which marks the end of pupping season. Officers from the San Diego Police Department have been assigned to keep people off the beach.

This has been a years-long struggle waged in the courts between those who want the beach left to the seals and those arguing for shared access.

Friends of the Children’s Pool, which advocates public access, described Filner’s response as an overreaction, and stated in a news release that the overnight closure is illegal.

Larry Wan, founder of the Western Alliance for Nature, told the San Diego Union-Tribune: “The pregnant seals are giving birth and when they're harassed, they end up being separated from their offspring, and then the chances of survival for the offspring are very much reduced. And if they're forced into the sea when they're giving birth, that also doesn't bode well for the seals.”

The footage of the two women was videotaped via cellphone from a recently installed infrared web camera that allows marine mammal enthusiasts to watch the seals from their homes.

The women, who may or may not be locals, are in clear violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and being sought by authorities.

–Harbor seal image is courtesy of Wolfgang Bluhm/La Jolla Friends of the Seals

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