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Harassment of sea lions in La Jolla has gotten out of control

"The situation is out of control," said California Coastal Commission Executive Director, Jack Ainsworth.

SAN DIEGO — There are growing concerns over the harassment of sea lions in La Jolla.

The San Diego Sierra Club Chapter along with the California Coastal Commission say the situation at Point La Jolla and Boomer Beach, just north of the Children's Pool, is out of control.

In images and video provided by the Sierra Club, you can see people within inches of the sea lions posing for selfies, and in some cases, even touching them.

"It's quite disturbing," said Robyn Davidoff, with the Sierra Club Seal Society. 

She says anything that changes a sea lion's behavior, whether it looks at you, growls, or goes into the water is considered harassment, which is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Yet, Davidoff sees it every time she visits the area. 

Not only that, but it could be deadly, especially for sea lion pups, if human scent changes their own. 

"It can cause the mom to abandon it and because they nurse for six months to a year before they start eating food, it can die because it will die of starvation," said Davidoff.

This past August, the problem got so bad, the city closed the area using barricades and hired rangers to be on patrol. Around the same time, the Sierra Club painted warning signs.

But that closure ended in September, the rangers are gone, and Davidoff says the signs don't work.

RELATED: City applies for emergency closure of La Jolla sea lion rookery

Their concerns were brought to the California Coastal Commission in November.

Its members agreed, saying more needs to be done. 

"We need the city to either manage the area or close it," said Davidoff.

Davidoff admits that like the nearby Children's Pool, restricting access to this area is a contentious issue. At the very least, she says it should be closed during pupping season, which usually runs from late May into July.

A spokesperson for the City of San Diego provided this response:

“The City is completing an application to the California Coastal Commission seeking approval of a long-term plan for seasonal closures. Creation of this plan was a condition of the emergency closure permit during pupping season. In the meantime, the City is exploring options for more immediate interventions to address reports of sea lion harassment, including additional signage and monitoring by park rangers. Closures are not a lawful option immediately available to the City.”

Long term, the Sierra Club would like to see a permanent barrier and more signage to educate visitors.

WATCH RELATED: San Diego beachgoer has close encounter with sea lion (July 2021)

RELATED: City leaders, animal lovers reminds residents, tourists to give sea lion pups space


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