THE BEAUTIFUL SEALS OF LA JOLLA, CA
Two weeks ago, I visited La Jolla, California to observe the harbor seals in residence at Casa Beach. Pup season runs from December through May and mother seals are continually drawn to this beautiful place to deliver their offspring.
Tourists and residents alike make the short walk to the beach from downtown La Jolla, often bringing their children to marvel at and learn more about the life of seals. According to La Jolla Friends of the Seals, 38 births have taken place on Casa Beach as of March 16th, many of which were witnessed from a respectful distance by humans in awe of the miracle of life taking place before them.
THE BEACH DEBATE
Of course, some people feel this beach should belong exclusively to humans. One man holds vigil at a table passing out pamphlets lauding the rights of people to use this space. Two men and a child frequently camp out on the beach, tossing a Frisbee too close to the seals. The child, at one point, was seen standing triumphantly on a rock lording over a mother giving birth. These accounts come from SealWatch volunteer, Colleen Cochran, in her recent article “Diary of a SealWatcher” (San Diego Reader, April 2, 2011).
The squatters mentioned above told Cochran that they don’t mind the seals, they just want to use the beach too. They believe the seals have a choice, as they do, to stay or go. While this sounds mutually congenial in theory, the human arrogance is undeniable and, with greater human visitation and activity, the seals will be forced to vacate from their ancient birthing place. Co-existence is, in no way, obtainable.
Cochran’s article, which outlines the specific reasons for and battles between seal proponents and the anti-seal contingent, reads:
San Diego Parks and Recreation Department promotes this myth of shared use. Posted signs at the entrance of the beach read, “Share the beach with the seals, but keep a safe distance.” The signs profess the unattainable, ” The beach and waters are open for public enjoyment. This is also a home and resting place for Harbor Seals.” They provide a typical political response, and like all such politic answers, solve nothing. In fact, this doublespeak is the sole cause of chaos at Casa Beach.
In the video I filmed at La Jolla, mother seals and their pups settle in at sunset for a restful night’s sleep, but for a short clip when the seals flee in haste. At that point, a man crossed the rope line for a picture and sent the pups scurrying – regardless of placards stating such behavior can separate pup from mom to the detriment of his or her survival. As my friends sternly told the man to get out, I’m pretty sure I called him a jackass right in front of his kid. I have no remorse. These beautiful creatures deserve a respectful distance.
BABY SEALS SHOT AND CLUBBED OFF CANADIAN SHORES
While people push and push back over the fate of seals in La Jolla, a flimsy “advisory rope” exists and, for now, mother seals birth their pups in relative safety. Seal pups off the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador are not so lucky.
Canada’s seal hunters began clubbing and slaughtering baby seals on Monday. Fred O’Regan of the International Fund for Animal Welfare shared a firsthand report from IFAW’s Seal Campaign Director, Sheryl Fink:
“Baby seals just a few weeks old are being shot at on small pans of ice, then clubbed or hooked and brought onboard the sealing ships to be skinned. Few sealers have been checking to see if the seals are unconscious before hooking or slicing them open.
Seals are also being killed for no reason – their bodies left on the ice to rot – a clear violation of Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations.
And in one horror-show case, we saw a young seal dumped in the bottom of a small boat while the sealers kept hunting and adding other bodies to the pile. The young seal – which was not checked to make sure it was unconscious – reaches up and waves its front flipper repeatedly, clearly still alive and in terrible agony.”
According to O’Regan, “Over 200,000 seals were saved last year. And this year only 27 sealing boats have joined this hunt so far – compared to 58 from last year. And this is significantly down from years past.”
If you have any interest in making this gruesome killing obsolete, please give now.