Today, if you go to see the seals you might wander into a different scenario depending on the day. The failure of the city to resolve the issue is causing people to take unimaginable actions.
Some days the seals are left to themselves. People walk the seawall and enjoy the view of the beach and the ocean. Children smile and point and get excited to see the animals. Tourists are taking pictures. Chances are good it’s a cloudy day. There will be a small table staffed by a volunteer selling “We just need one beach” t-shirts supporting the seals.
On a sunny day, weekend, or holiday there might be a different scene. The seals will be out in the water looking for a rock or ledge to rest on. Recently some snorkelers have gone so far as to hire private security and put signs up proclaiming their right to use the beach. Families unaware of the small signs warning of the unsafe fecal bacteria levels will allow their children to use the beach and swim in the water. Cops are now trolling the area more regularly.
People not paying attention are finding their pictures on the web and on the local news – they will be found and ticketed with a heavy fine for breaking the Marine Mammal Protection Act that tells them they must stay a certain distance away from the seals. Recently a man was even sentenced for threating the seal activists.
The stress this must be causing the animals is hard to imagine. The fear of disease is a concern of the locals. The problem is clear – the situation needs to be resolved once and for all. All the back and forth is just making the place harder to visit and enjoy. To dredge the sand will cost over $500,000, with $50,000 in annual maintenance going forward. The seals last hope may be the Navy, who have the ability to say that dredging could change the California coast too dramatically and may damage the other landscape. Whether or not the seals are allowed to stay, I certainly hope to see the resolution of the issue while I live here.