A question of ownership

SealThe city of San Diego as been given 72 hours to remove seals from a beach at the area of La Jolla so that children may use a concrete paddling pool there.  The pool was originally built and gifted to the city by a local philanthropist in the 1930s and nowadays contains such high levels of bacteria that there are signs advising people not to use it …. yet they still do.  (…??!…candidates for the Darwin Awards no doubt…)

As you might expect with one of these ‘man versus the environment’ issues, passions are running high.  City authorities are now at loggerheads with those who say that the seals are a valuable tourist attraction, the seals need a period of rest each day and that the area should instead be made into a sanctuary for the animals.

As the seals are a federally protected marine species, the only suggested solution is to employ someone to walk up and down the beach with a public address system loudly playing the sound of dogs barking .  (Torture for nearby human residents too I would have thought). Of course, passions are so inflamed that authorities feel that the person with the dog barking address system will need police protection – probably 2 officers will do.

I suspect the seals have always visited this beach and maybe back in the 1930s, when La Jolla was a quiet little seaside resort, shared use of the beach by man and animal wasn’t perceived to be a problem.  During the 1990s seal visitors increased and coincidentally, by that time there had also been an explosion of human visitors and residents.

LaJolla_Seals2I was at La Jolla a couple of times in the 1990s and my visits gave me magical memories that I treasure and make me want to visit again some day.  Forget the man-made attractions of cafes, restaurants and up-scale boutiques because I can find those around every corner.  What I can’t easily see in very many places, and therefore made my visit so special that I’d like to return some day, was the beautiful coastline and particularly the ability to get close to a large gathering of wild seals.  People had gathered too – some on the beach just yards away from the seals, some standing up on the little harbour wall.  All of us just quietly watching, all no doubt enjoying an all too rare opportunity to get so close to an aspect of nature that we rarely see.

In my opinion it would be a huge mistake to try to remove the seals.  Not only will it be costly to keep two policemen on ‘seal patrol’,  if the annoying public address system does the trick the seals may move on, but they may well take up residence on the very next beach along, causing a nuisance to swimmers, surfers and beachgoers there.  If they should sadly disappear entirely from the La Jolla area then I think that the town will notice a big drop in visitor numbers.  To me La Jolla without the wildlife is just another pretty coastal town and I (along with many others, I suspect) will have little reason to return.

Then there is the bigger moral question of who really owns this or any other piece of  coastline?  Is it ever ours to trade – to sell or to give away, imposing our will on all those who share it?  I’d argue that the marine life was there long before man and so we have a duty to be good new tenants, finding ways, wherever humanly possible, to discretely share the same space.  Besides which, is it really so difficult for us to find another place for a toddlers’ paddling pool?

La Jolla_Seal beach



Filed under environment, Green issues, modern life, People watching, Photography, world

15 responses to “A question of ownership

  1. globalinternational

    very nice , i like it .

  2. angelcel

    I’m not quite sure whether you mean the pics, the writing, or both but thank you. 🙂

  3. Did not see the story–thanks for the link. You make a great point in that additional public safety funds will be spent during issue–money that California (cities or the state) certainly does not have.

  4. angelcel

    Coming from ‘Broke Britain’ I can tell you that one of the very the first questions that we as a nation ask on any public issue is: How much is this going to cost us?’ This seems like a very silly and unnecessaary waste of public funds.

  5. Forrester McLeod

    God. We humans are the bully from hell on this spherical playground. It’s embarrassing. I raised a son and LOVED taking him to see wildlife, and as you say in your last sentence, somehow I was able to find TONS of places, both man-made and natural, where he could swim, wade, and paddle to his heart’s content.

    I’ll keep everything crossed that whoever is behind this is gifted with something worthwhile to throw their energy behind…

    Thanks for the post!

  6. Chère

    Great post! So, my law nerd side is showing here but your question of “who owns the beach?” reminded me of a discussion we’d had about California beach law in my Property class last year. In essence, this isn’t a case of WHO owns the beach (because the land was properly deeded to San Diego in the ’30s), but on what condition. The deed requires the beach to be maintained and used as a place for the public/children. The water is polluted (due in part to the seals) so, technically, the city is violating the terms of the deed until that is remedied. That’s why the judge ordered the seals to be moved.

    It gets (even more) complicated because yesterday the Governor signed a law which changes the language in the original deed granting the land to San Diego which would allow it to be used for marine animals as well as people. Basically, this would put the decision of whether to allow the seals to remain or not in the hands of the San Diego City Council. There’s supposed to be some kind of statement by the San Diego City Attorney today…

    It’s like a law school Property hypo for me 🙂 I agree that they should let the seals stay, but I’m not sure if they’ll be able to. It’s nice to see that steps have been taken to at least try, though.

  7. Feh. Seals trump toddlers, in my humble opinion!

  8. I think that is the only possible place for the paddling pool 😉

  9. Joy

    Totally agree with you (obviously). It’s a really sad stance that these people are taking, I just don’t get it.

  10. angelcel

    OK, update here: It seems we have an example of being ‘separated by a common language’. Where I come from a ‘paddling pool’ is an inflatable plastic water container, available from all good toy shops, that you can blow up, fill with water and put in your back garden for the kiddiliwinks to enjoy on a sunny day. In rare instances it’s a nasty shallow concrete ‘pond’ in a public park where toddlers can paddle (and pee). To my mind, therefore, it’s already a bit of a health hazard.

    I’ve been doing some more reading about the seals, the beach and the paddling pool at La Jolla and I get the impression that the *entire beach* is the ‘paddling pool’. Someone will no doubt correct me if I’m wrong. (Who’d have thought that a whole beach could be a ‘paddling pool’)?

    This doesn’t really change my feeling that the seals are a greater asset to the town than the toddlers paddling pool, but it does put some of my comments about the paddling pool in a different light. For example, if the beach *is* the paddling pool then quite clearly you can’t ‘just’ have it elsewhere!

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