Seal Bothering

The letter “Seal Worshippers” contains some misunderstandings and errors. I am a member of Seal Watch and obtained this information from those who were present, Seal Watch records, and Code Enforcement. I’ll hasten to add I have said nothing to anyone about what, if any, penalty is appropriate.

First, Seal Watch has no involvement in legal action by the city against the custodian of the dog which ran down from the overlook, chasing the harbor seals into the water. Seal Watch’s involvement was to call Code Enforcement and complete a report.

Second, the dog did not “get loose.” Seal Watchers asked the custodian to leash the dog. Third, the letter writer does not know whether any harm was done to the seals. What we know is that there were 106 seals on the beach, that all fled, and that only 12 returned by 5 p.m. When seals are stampeded, pups and moms often separate—which sometimes leads to the death of the pup.

Fourth, no Seal Watcher “offered to help catch the errant dog,” because no one is allowed on the beach. Fifth, Code Enforcement and a deputy met the custodian near Bailard Avenue, not at the seal overlook. Sixth, rules such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act protect seals because the threat to their long term survival is people, not natural predators.

Seventh, seals will swim with people and dogs. What most harbor seals will not do is tolerate people and dogs on land where they cannot effectively defend themselves. Finally, a segment of the local population has adapted over years to some of the activity on the pier and bluff top—though there are still disturbances from excessive noise.

Speaking personally, protection of the seals is not about “animal worship.” It is about people, and the rare opportunity to observe harbor seals closely on land as they interact, give birth, and raise their pups. Tens of thousands of people annually enjoy viewing the seals. People who care about themselves, and future generations, protect the natural plants and animals that form our rich and diverse environment.

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