San Diego officials are closing a popular beach at nighttime after cameras set up to monitor a seal colony caught people kicking, punching, and sitting on the animals that lived there.
The announcement came Tuesday from San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who said that the popular La Jolla (HOY’-uh) beach will be closed between sunset and sunrise until May 15. In January, city officials had set up a camera equipped with night vision so both residents and researchers could watch the seals during their birthing season.
The images of two women jumping on pregnant seals has been broadcast by San Diego news stations. The footage caused outrage among animal activists, who have now praised the city’s decision to restrict the beach.
“I think the beach closure is absolutely necessary and a step in the right direction,” Larry Wan of the Western Alliance for Nature, which oversees the web-cam, told MailOnline. “We are very thankful to Mayor Filner who appreciates the seals and wants to provide meaningful protection for them. Unfortunately, the incident seen of the two women harassing the seals is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the harassment of seals on this beach.”
Bryan Pease, a lawyer representing the Animal Protection and Rescue League, told KPBS San Diego that the measure is an important step to keep the marine animals safe during the important pupping season.
“It’s great that the new mayor is being proactive and at least closing the seal rookery at night, when the seals are without any protection, and the rope is not really visible,” Pease said.
The beach has already been a battleground as groups seeking to protect the seals have clashed with city officials. SealWatch San Diego, a non-profit organization affiliated with the Animal Protection and Rescue League, maintains a daily presence at the beach to protect the La Jolla seals from harassment.