Popular Calif. beach to close for 7 years to protect sea lions

La Jolla Beach in San Diego is known for its beauty and rugged rocks. But what makes it even more remarkable is the sea lion population that’s chosen Point La Jolla to breed and nurse. However, the species often come in close contact with humans at the popular beach. 

Continuing their efforts to protect the sea lion population, the San Diego City Council unanimously voted Sept. 18 to close the area to the public, according to La Jolla Light.

The 8-0 vote amended the city code to protect sea lions from invasive human visitors by preventing human access to the beach year round.

The vote is the latest attempt from the council to place safeguards for the sea lions. Last year, the council voted to adopt a seasonal closure of the tourist attraction from May through October. The 150-yard closure pertained to both Point La Jolla and Boomer Beach.

“We moved on this quickly to reduce prolonged conflict and confusion,” Councilmember Joe LaCava told the LA Times. “This closure is keeping the public safe, it equips our rangers with enforcement capability and it maintains historic access to the ocean for those that want to use it.”

The beach closure is not permanent, and in seven years, the city must apply for either a new amendment or a new coastal development permit.

Viral videos have captured visitors invading the sea lions’ personal space and taking selfies. The public will still be able to see the sea lions from behind barriers, and an ocean access point will still be available.

The Sierra Club supports the amendment and told SFGATE that since the seasonal closure started last year, marine bird populations have increased, the natural plant life is recovering and there has been less trampling and erosion undermining the cliffside.

“What makes this such a special place is that this is the only sea lion rookery on the California mainland. And even more importantly, it is in an urban environment accessible to thousands of visitors annually,” Sierra Club chapter director Richard Miller told SFGATE in a statement. “The year-round closure will keep the public and sea lions at safe distances to protect both people and the animals while giving the public the opportunity to observe nature close-up.”

However, opponents to the amendment worry that the decision could set a precedent for the council to close other beaches and accused the council of failing to consult with the La Jolla community.

“It feels like the city is casting aside the community and the park with no respect and no regard,” Bob Evans, president of La Jolla Parks and Beaches, a community advisory group, told the LA Times.

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