By Ron Donoho
A new, 24/7 "Seal-Cam" has caught people harassing the harbor seals that hang out by the coastal Children's Pool in La Jolla . Even with a web audience watching, a few fanatics who want to reclaim the sandy shoreline from the pinnipeds don't seem deterred from badgering pregnant mama seals and their pups.
The nonprofit Western Alliance for Nature spent $40,000 to mount the high-definition, infrared- outfitted camera on a La Jolla lifeguard tower. Mayor Bob Filner supports the effort and has called the beach "an ecological wonder."
But Sara Wan of the Western Alliance for Nature says the Seal-Cam hasn't stopped "professional harassers" from kicking seals, pulling their flippers and repeatedly flashing lights at them.
wan says a recent video shows a man's successful effort to flush 70 seals and 14 pups (including two newborns) into the ocean at night. She says Seaworld rescued an abandoned pup the following morning.
The Seal-Cam - which can zoom in-and-out, left-and-right - was vandalized once, but quickly repaired. it's remotely controlled by a team of operators, one of whom lives in Australia and works the (Pacific time) night shift.
Footage of two women sitting on seals and kicking them into the water on the night of February 14 (Happy Valentine's Day?) has not incriminated anyone yet, though police have beefed up patrols in the area.
Wan says city and federal ordinances protect the mammals. Injuring them isn't normally a jail-able offense, but federal fines can range up to $10,000.
"The primary reasons for the camera is so people around the world can enjoy the seals, and so we
can collect data about seal interactions," says Wan. "The secondary reason is to catch people."
The evidence isn't signed, but it is sealed and delivered at earthcam.com.
"What about this man-made cove called Children's Pool, which was originally designed as a pool for human children to swim in, is an 'ecological wonder'? A tourist wonder, maybe. But this 'seal sanctuary' has contributed to the destruction of the most diverse natural habitat on the entire West Coast. Seals attract predators, decimate fish populations and eat the endangered species that we'll never see again. And we're saving them because an organization says their levels aren't 'optimal'? Their numbers are higher than ever before. Who's saving the abalone, lobster, white sea bass, yellowtail? I mean, the seals already eaten all the mermaids! -Alyson C. Baker
Alyson C. Baker is a PacificSD team member who swears she isn't the one who was kicking the seals, but doesn't have a reliable alibi for Valentine's Day.