• Coast Commission Approves Temporary Fencing to Protect PG Seal Pups

    By Thom Akeman

    Pacific Grove seal pup, photo from 4-25-14 by Kim Worrell

    Pacific Grove seal pup, photo from 4-25-14 by Kim Worrell

    The California Coastal Commission has granted approval for Pacific Grove to temporarily close the beaches in the 5th-8th Streets vicinity to protect the vulnerable harbor seal pups born there each spring.

    The commission, meeting Wednesday in Santa Monica, unanimously consented to a staff recommendation to allow the kinds of lattice and split-rail fencing the city installed last spring along the east side of Berwick Park and over to the connect with the permanent fence around Hopkins Marine Station.

    The approval was for a three-year waiver from the cumbersome processes required for a full coastal development permit. The fencing used last year doesn’t obstruct public views or otherwise impact coastal resources while protecting newborn seals federally protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the commission found.

    The approval wasn’t a real surprise since the Coastal Commission in August approved seasonal closure of a popular beach in San Diego to harbor seal pups born there. While that was the first time the Coastal Commission acted, seasonal closures have become common along the California coast to protect the pups born to animals once hunted to near extinction.

    There were no harbor seals along Pacific Grove for at least a century before a handful of them reappeared at Hopkins Marine Station in the 1960s. The colony has grown since then and the birthing started on a main beach at Hopkins in 1997. As more pups were born there, some new moms moved westward in 2006 to deliver theirs on the small beaches and rocky coves near the bottom of 5th Street.

    The city immediately put up temporary fencing to keep people away from the nursing seals and did so every year since until 2013, when a few residents objected. Government employees, animal rescue groups and trained docents put up signs and barricades to try to compensate for the lack of fencing, but vandals kept removing them. Without the protection, many people inadvertently went into the pupping area and frightened away seal moms that abandoned their helpless babies. A record number of dead seal pups were seen along Pacific Grove that year, prompting the City Council to adopt an ordinance prescribing the temporary fencing installed last year and approved by the Coastal Commission this week.

    A record number of pups were born on Pacific Grove beaches in 2014 – nearly 100 – and all but a few survived to weaning. In the nine years since the pupping expanded over to the 5th Street Cove east of Berwick park, about 20 percent of the new seals have been born there each, 80 percent on the bigger beach at Hopkins.

    The pupping has been starting in late March and continuing into mid-May. The cute little critters draw thousands of people to the shoreline just to see them.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on January 7, 2015

    Topics: Uncategorized

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