Posts Tagged La Jolla Cove

Jun 17 2016

La Jolla Sea Lion Situation Now A ‘Crisis’

Visitors in La Jolla Cove stand on the bluffs along the ocean, Nov. 19, 2015.

Photo by Katie Schoolov – Visitors in La Jolla Cove stand on the bluffs along the ocean, Nov. 19, 2015.


The ongoing poop problem in La Jolla appears to be getting worse.

How much worse?

Residents are now calling it a crisis.

“It’s not just the smell of the sea lions on the rocky bluffs,” said Steve Haskins, the former president of the La Jolla Town Council. “Now it’s actually the sea lions taking over the stairways, sometimes they don’t let people go to the beach or leave the beach because you have very large male sea lions on the stairways, which can be very aggressive.”

Pollution from sea lion and bird droppings in the ocean also led to the cancellation of the annual La Jolla Rough Water Swim race this year, said Haskins.

La Jolla Cove was under a health advisory warning for about two weeks in May due to high levels of pollution. Historically, advisories average two days in the cove, according to county staff.

Over the years, a number of creative ideas to address the stench have been proposed. In 2013 the city began the application of a bioactive product on the bluffs. Early this year, a group of La Jolla residents and business owners suggested setting up rotating plastic cylinders that will roll the marine mammals off the rocks as they try to jump out of the water.

Haskins said no action on that plan was taken.

Now he is suggesting the city spray water on the sea lions, which the animals don’t like, to remove them off the beach. Haskins said this solution would require no approval from authorities, and the city could do it immediately.

The city commissioned a report on the sea lions that was supposed to come out in May, according to Haskins, but it hasn’t yet been published.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Jan 14 2016

La Jolla considering new way to deal with sea lions


SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) – La Jolla may have finally found a solution for dealing with the strong stench coming from the poop of sea lions.

On Tuesday night, the town council heard a new idea for keeping sea lions off the bluffs at La Jolla Cove.

Since ssea lion make their way up to the guardrail each night, the city hired a company to spray germ killing foam to get rid of the poop, but critics say it only lasts a week and the odor is back.

There are strict coastal regulations on how to take care of the sea lions and now there could be a solution.

The high surf has the sea lions on higher ground in the La Jolla Cove and residents and visitors can smell their poop is giving off strong stench.

“The smell here in La Jolla makes it very difficult for anyone of us who live here to put up with it and it makes it very difficult for tourists to come here. It hurts the business, it hurts the community and it hurts the individuals,” said La Jolla resident Barry Jadgoda.

After months of exploring options of what is legal, humane and efficient, the La Jolla Town Council Coastal Committee gave a first look at the marine mammal safety barriers.

“These are large cylinders that are inflatable and when the sea lions try to go over them they spin so the sea lions can’t get any leverage on them,” said La Jolla Town Council President Steve Haskins.

The safety barriers have been supported by the national oceanic atmospheric administration.

“When the sea lions attempt to pass over the spin, no matter how much they try to get traction, they can’t,” said Haskins.

The rollers will be placed on the east and west end of the cove to control where the sea lions do their business.

“I like this idea. I’m actually pleasantly surprised to have come down here to see it,” said Claude-Anthony Marengo, La Jolla Merchants Association President.

Still, how and who should scoop the poop has been raising a stink for several years.

“How do you interface with the city? How do you get them off their ass and how are we going to move forward on this because obviously we appreciate your leadership,” said Barry Jagoda.

The La Jolla Town Council is expected to approve the barrier plan on Thursday, share it with organizations, and hope the City Council will approve without going through the coastal commission approval.

Council President Lightner supports the plan, while a judge has rejected a complaint that it’s the city’s responsibility to scoop the poop, which is on appeal.

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May 16 2015

La Jolla leaders discuss sea lion issue with NOAA

Lifeguards at La Jolla Cove trained in use of ‘crowding boards’ to deter pinnipeds

Sea_Lions_resting_2-19-15_t837The growing number of sea lions along the cliffs at La Jolla Cove is causing problems for businesses and beach-goers.

Last week lifeguards monitoring La Jolla Cove were given what could be the first of several tools in an arsenal to help manage the growing sea lion population at La Jolla Cove — training in the use of plywood “crowding boards.”

The boards are used by SeaWorld personnel and others working in close proximity to marine mammals to help safely nudge the animals along and to get around them without being bitten. A regional stranding coordinator with NOAA Fisheries (Justin Viezbicke) provided the training, confirmed Chris Yates, assistant regional administrator of NOAA’s Protected Resources Division, West Coast Region.

“It’s just largely a big plywood shield that keeps something between you and the animal,” Yates told La Jolla Light. “The lifeguards have to interact with sea lions on a fairly regular basis. … Crowding boards are a common practice for all sorts of different wildlife resource managers, but particularly with pinnipeds, to be able to protect themselves when they need to move animals from a place where they would be endangering themselves or people.”

Crowding boards are just one method local governments such as the City of San Diego can use under section 109(h) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to legally deter sea lions or other marine mammals from remaining in an area, including the use of water jets, sprinklers, air horns or other noise-making deterrents, strobe lights, starter pistols, electric livestock fencing, slingshots, cattle prods and rubber bullets.

“If the city so chooses to exercise its authority under 109(h) of the MMPA, any city employee or contractor specified for that purpose can use crowding boards to move animals from places where they are either in danger themselves or where they have a public health or welfare implication,” Yates said.

San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Rich Stropky referred questions about the training to a city spokesperson, who did not return e-mail and phone messages about the training by press time. A spokesperson for District 1 City Council president Sherri Lightner also did not return a message asking if Lightner would advocate for the use of sea lion deterrence allowed under the MMPA provision.

The training came to light following a May 5 meeting Yates granted La Jolla Town Council (LJTC) president Steve Haskins and La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) committee chair Dan Allen. Haskins and Allen requested the meeting, held at NOAA’s Southwest Region office in Long Beach, as a follow-up to LJTC’s April sea lion forum ( and LJP&B’s directive that the city take action to address issues related to the sea lions’ growing presence (, such as public safety and the pervasive odor from their urine and excrement.

New_sea_lion_shenanigans_1_t837Tourists at La Jolla Cove snap photos of sea lions that have become bolder and more plentiful on the beach popular with swimmers.

“It’s pretty interesting what we found out,” Haskins said. “Some of the things I heard were not things I’ve heard before. … It seems like there’s something going on, on our end, where the people with the city aren’t tuning in to what’s being said. … Apparently this is a very bad situation that’s happening all over California, Oregon and Washington. The amount of sea lions has exploded and once they take over a place, they basically don’t give it up, so you need to move quickly if you want to change their behavior. You can’t take years to decide what to do.”

Yates said several times he has reminded San Diego city officials of the measures available under the MMPA to legally harass sea lions without filing for permits or receiving NOAA or other authorization. “They’ve asked us at various times questions about 109(h) as it relates to … things going on during the years,” Yates said. “We’ve told them, yes, they have that authority under 190(h). … They don’t have to do anything with us. There’s no permitting. We don’t approve it, we don’t bless it, we don’t do anything. That’s their legal authority under the law.”

Asked if any of the federally approved deterrent methods seem to work better than others, Yates replied, “That’s the million-dollar question.

“In general, sea lions are very persistent,” he said. “They become habituated to these deterrent methods very quickly, and people up and down the California Coast are very frustrated because it’s not easy to keep them away from things that people want to keep them away from. In places where there are docks and marinas, the most effective methods have been physical structures that form barriers, but they’re strong, big animals that can jump and crush things, so when you’re building a barrier … or a fence, it’s a substantial thing.”

Yates said most noise deterrents have not proven effective, as sea lions grow easily accustomed to them.

“Some places use water effectively, but you have to consistently reinforce the animals,” he said. “If you don’t have a physical barrier that keeps them away from something you have to be very diligent in keeping them away from that spot, either physically crowding them off or using something like water or another technique that’s not going to hurt them — that’s part of the deal.”

There is no magic formula to outfox the clever, dog-like creatures, Yates noted.

“If you let them come back, they’ll be back in full force and you’ve got to start from square one, so it is a constant maintenance type of thing, which obviously puts a lot of resource strains on the city or government entities trying to do that.”

Yates said the MMPA allows the city to effectively deputize a group such as the LJTC or LJP&B to manage deterrence methods. At Moss Landing in Monterey County — where it’s estimated sea lions cause about $100,000 in damage each year — people have been tasked with fulfilling community service requirements by chasing sea lions off the dock (in lieu of picking up roadside trash).

“We’ve seen people hire contractors, we’ve seen people designate people as city representatives under that authority, even though they’re not official city employees or officials,” Yates said. “There’s a lot of room for creativity there, as long as those people are acting within the scope of what the law allows and the city is responsible for them. …

“I don’t know that that has ever been challenged in court … (but) I would think if a city documents for itself the need to exercise its authority under 109(h) and specifies the individuals who would be doing that activity, that that would likely work,” Yates added. “Each city or government entity has to kind of review that with their own eyes and their own legal (team) and their own comfort level as to how they exercise those rights.”

While the roughly 70 to 100 sea lions at La Jolla Cove are not among the tens of thousands NOAA studies off the California coast, a city-commissioned study of La Jolla’s sea lion colony by marine mammal expert Doyle Hanan is ongoing. Results of the study should be released in the coming month and could help the city assess how to move forward with possible sea lion deterrent or behavior modification techniques.

Unlike the harbor seals at Children’s Pool beach, NOAA said California sea lions almost exclusively breed and give birth in the Channel Islands, about 180 miles off the coast. Haskins said he and Allen would contact Lightner and the mayor’s office to share what they learned from NOAA and underscore the need to take immediate action. “The more we understand about the behavior and abilities of sea lions, the more it seems like it’s almost impossible to stop them,” Haskins said.

Sea Lion Update

Sea lions breed and pups are weaned (so far) only on the Channel Islands. The breeding animals leave the mainland in May and return in August and September.

* There are estimated to be 330,000 sea lions off the U.S. coast, with a 3-5 percent continuous growth rate since the 1970s. There is no theory to explain why many come at one time to mainland bluffs and beaches, such as La Jolla Cove.

* Recent pup strandings are above normal and a phenomenon of perturbations in the food supply and not related to the perceived increase in animals at La Jolla Cove.

* Elephant Seals and Guadalupe Fur Seals have been spotted on mainland beaches, and their population growth and habitat dynamics are like sea lions.

* Sea lions explore new areas and haul out where they can be comfortable. Younger males learn dominant behavior from the older bulls.

* The Maine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) prohibits harassment of sea lions in any way by members of the public. However, harassment by city, county, state or federal personnel or their contractors is allowed under MMPA section 109(h).

* Sea lions are quick learners and stubborn. The way to deter them from settling in any particular place is to make them uncomfortable. The recommended ways — all to be done together — are: physically approach and shove with a plywood shield, aka “crowding board”; make a loud noise, such as with an air horn; squirt high-pressure water on the animal’s nose, chest and or rear end.

* Any effort must be a well-planned campaign, consistently done and started early in the day. The plan needs to address what to do next if moving the sea lions is successful, since the sea lions will relocate.

* The problem will be worse if the animals feel comfortable spending the night in the location where they are a nuisance.

* Predator sound reproduction has failed where tried.

* Because sea lions can climb and/or jump as much as six feet, any fence to restrain them must be carefully engineered with spinning rungs. There is a potential problem with fencing trapping animals from returning to the sea.

* Poop cleaning needs enzyme treatment. Water alone will not work.

* Dogs and sea lions share vulnerability to the same kinds of diseases, so they must be kept away from each other.

* Numerous locations along the California and Oregon coasts have conflicts with sea lions involving boat docks. Few have conflicts involving beaches and shoreline areas like La Jolla Cove does.

* Presently there are no adopted guidelines interpreting MMPA section 109(h) for sea lion deterrence or removal.

— Compiled from NOAA officials by 
La Jolla Parks & Beaches chair, Dan Allen

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