• Seal Pup Policy To Be Codified

    seals by cyIn an effort to avoid the contention and concerns that came to the fore during the spring 2013 harbor seal pupping season, the City of Pacific Grove will update and revise the 2007 policy enacted Dec. 19, 2007 and make it part of the Municipal Code. As part of the Municipal Code, it can be enforced to a level not possible with a resolution or City Council policy.

    The roles and responsibilities of various interested parties, including the City, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and volunteer docents who provide information to the public about the pupping season will be refined and encoded. The city is also coordinating with the California Coastal Commission to obtain the necessary permits to allow protective fencing and signage which will hopefully reduce human impact on the harbor seals during pupping season.

    This past season, as the numbers of harbor seals increased so did the interest on the part of humans – tourists and locals – in their activities. Unfortunately, there was a huge increase in the number of pups that died – 26, in fact – perhaps as a consequence of human eagerness to see them. Bay Net volunteers at the rookery recounted some 18,000 interactions they had with tourists, pointing to the fact that the seal pups are a major tourist attraction for the City.

    People also often mistake lonely baby seals for orphans, not being aware that the mother seals leave them on the beach while they go fishing.

    The City’s 2007 policy was also intended to keep seals from pupping on the beaches most popular with humans, mainly Lovers Point Beach, where this year a mother seal elected to have her pup, having been scared off from the Hopkins Marine rookery by human interference. The result is that the beach at Lovers Point had to be closed for human activity as the seals are protected.

    In September, 2013, the Beautification and Natural Resources Commission will be asked to consider and provide input on draft ordinances and a policy update. The City Council will then make a first reading of the ordinance and adopt the policy in October, 2013, with a second reading and adoption of an ordinance in November. A 30-day period is required for the ordinance to take effect.

    According to the 2007 policy, which was intended to discourage seal “haul-outs” at Lovers Point Beach, any beach would be temporarily closed to public use and fencing and signage installed in order to protect the seals and their pups for the season, which lasts from February through Maym or locally from March to June.

    Techniques acceptable by NOAA might not be acceptable to the Beautification and Natural Resource Commission. Techniques recommended include human presence, noisemakers, sonic repellers and scarecrows. Not recommended were barriers (cited as being unworkable and ineffective for our beachs), excessive or continuous noises, and direct physical contact (poking, throwing things at them).

    In the event seal pups were delivered on any city beach, deterrent actions would become protection ones: Fencing of the beach, posting of “no trespassing” signs, and use of docents to explain the pup viewing sites and the nature of mother seals and their pups.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on September 4, 2013

    Topics: Front PG News

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