|Thursday, October 14, 2004|
Sea Shepherd Wades Into La Jolla Seal Battle
On Tuesday October 13, Captain Paul Watson appeared before the San Diego City Council to speak on behalf of the seals on the beach at La Jolla, California.
He was allowed only three minutes, but in that brief amount of time he laid out a strategy for a campaign to oppose the proposal by the City Council to dredge a seal colony habitat on the waterfront of the affluent community of La Jolla.
Captain Watson told the City Council that it was unusual for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to be involved in issues within the United States because the Marine Mammal Protection Act, (which has been in force since 1972), provides legal protection for seals and the National Marine Fisheries Service is the agency charged with the enforcement of this law.
Only once before has Sea Shepherd intervened, and that was in 1998 when the National Marine Fisheries Service granted the Makah Tribe in Washington State a permit to kill whales without first undertaking an Environmental Assessment. In that case, the National Marine Fisheries was successfully sued and the permit was withdrawn.
Captain Watson informed the San Diego City Council that if a permit was issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) without an Environmental Assessment, both NMFS and the San Diego City Council would be challenged in the courts for violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Three seals have been reported to have been stabbed or slashed. Sea Shepherd is investigating if these injuries were intentionally inflicted or the result of accidents. In addition, people have been chasing seals into the water and preventing them from coming on to the beach. These are violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the violations are not being challenged or acted upon by the NMFS.
In response to this, Captain Watson informed the City Council that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is posting a $2,000 reward for any evidence or information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person or persons violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act in connection with the seals at La Jolla.
Captain Watson also informed the City Council that he would make this an international and a national issue.
"This involves more than just the community of La Jolla. This is an attempt to undermine and weaken Federal regulations. We are not only defending the seals here, we are defending the Marine Mammal Protection Act."
Captain Watson added, "Seal habitat has been greatly diminished along the California coast due to human development. Will this City Council be satisfied when the only place they will find a seal in San Diego County will be at Sea World?
In response to the argument that the seals need to be removed to provide access to the beach for children, Captain Watson said, "Every child that I have seen at this beach is thrilled to see these seals. This is not about what children want, it is about what adults want. Cruelty to seals and destruction of seal habitat is not behavior that most children support."
The brief presentation by Captain Paul Watson was followed by a protest by the Save the San Diego Seals Coalition in front of the City Hall.
The Save the San Diego Seals Coalition has filed a lawsuit against the City that challenges the September 14 vote to dredge Casa Beach in the village of La Jolla and to remove the rope barrier that has protected the 200 seals on the beach from human harassment.
Progress on the lawsuit can be followed on the website:
Please write to them and express your concern that the Marine Mammal Protection Act is being ignored and that the City of San Diego is illegally pursuing a plan to dredge the beach where the seals have established a colony. We need to demand that the laws protecting the seals be enforced and that people harassing the seals be charged if they persist in breaking the law.
Story on this in the San Diego Union Tribune:
Where the San Diego City Council Members stand on this issue:
The Six Council Members Who Voted to Evict the Seals from the Beach at La Jolla: