Tag

La Jolla

Surfer’s View of Scripps Pier Perfect Sunset, Solar Alignment, La Jolla

San Diego

Twice each year, the sun sets perfectly centered in the long thin window of the Scripps Research Pier pilings. Photographing this event is frankly rather formulaic and straightforward, to the point that people pack the narrow space on the shore between the pier pilings well before the sunset to ensure they have a “spot” when the sun lines up. It’s not a secret photo op nor is it spontaneous, but it is a striking and fleeting sight to see. I met a couple photographer buddies for one of the lineup evenings in 2013 and managed to photograph it reasonably well: Scripps Pier Sunset Perfect Solar Alignment, La Jolla, San Diego, California. This year I gave the matter some thought and realized I just couldn’t bring myself to do the same photo over again, especially with the crowd that forms. How to do it differently and with at least a modicum of spontaneity and physical challenge?

Scripps Pier solstice, surfer's view from among the waves, sunset aligned perfectly with the pier. Research pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography SIO, sunset, La Jolla, California

Scripps Pier solstice, surfer’s view from among the waves, sunset aligned perfectly with the pier. Research pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography SIO, sunset.
Image ID: 30150
Location: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, USA

After pondering it for a while I realized leaving the shore was really the only option. I spent three afternoons recently photographing the pier using one of my water cam setups — a custom-made surf housing for my Canon 5D Mark III — along with a few pieces of simple but secret equipment to make it all possible. Shooting it from the surfline is pretty tough, the pier does not move of course but the water moves and thus so do I. The sun is only centered below the far end of the pier for a short while, perhaps 30 seconds or less, and getting the camera reasonably high up off the water while positioning the pilings where I wanted them and keeping them vertical was tougher than I thought I would be. The nice part was that even though the solar alignment that makes these sunsets special only really occurred one of the three evenings (and was probably not properly aligned had I been shooting from the shore), it was still great to get wet and enjoy the surf and I landed some new views of the pier I have known since 1981 (ok, including the older pier and this new one). This photograph was the image from that effort with which I am happiest; it seems to capture dark shadows that settle under the pier rapidly as the sun disappears, the thin pastel colors in the clouds, and rapidly moving wavelets of water reverberating through the pilings. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Scripps Pier, Clouds and Surf, Black and White, La Jolla, California

California, La Jolla

Scripps Pier, La Jolla, California. Cloudy day and small surf. This image was photographed with the relatively new Sony A7R camera. I am really impressed with this camera. If you follow my photography you may know I am not a black and white art photographer, but in this case it seemed to suggest itself. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Scripps Institution of Oceanography research pier, La Jolla, California

Scripps Institution of Oceanography research pier.
Image ID: 29130
Location: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, USA

Aerial Panoramas of La Jolla and San Diego

Aerial Photography, La Jolla, Panoramas, San Diego

Flying recently while a winter high pressure system hung over Southern California, I was able to take advantage of clear dry air to shoot several aerial panoramic photos of the La Jolla and northern San Diego coastline. These are technically very difficult to realize, both in capturing the source images and in digitally blending them into the final high resolution panoramic image. The plane was moving 100+ mph, so parallax was a significant factor, and holding a 300mm lens steady while buffeted by wind is not easy. Shown below are coastlines along Torrey Pines State Reserve, Point La Jolla south to Bird Rock, and Point La Jolla north to Scripps Institution of Oceanography (including UCSD). Cheers and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panorama of La Jolla, University City, showing (from left) UCSD, University City, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla Shores, Point La Jolla, Mount Soledad, in the background some of the mountains to the east of San Diego.  The highest peak in the center of the panoram is Cuyamaca Peak (6512') while the rocky peak directly in front of it is El Cajon Mountain (3675')

Aerial Panorama of La Jolla, University City, showing (from left) UCSD, University City, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla Shores, Point La Jolla, Mount Soledad, in the background some of the mountains to the east of San Diego. The highest peak in the center of the panoram is Cuyamaca Peak (6512′) while the rocky peak directly in front of it is El Cajon Mountain (3675′).
Image ID: 29098

Aerial panorama of Torrey Pines State Reserve, from Del Mar (left) to La Jolla (right), San Diego, California

Aerial panorama of Torrey Pines State Reserve, from Del Mar (left) to La Jolla (right)
Image ID: 29096
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA

Aerial Panoramic Photograph of La Jolla, Mount Soledad, University City

Aerial Panoramic Photograph of La Jolla, Mount Soledad, University City
Image ID: 29097

If you like these, please see more aerial photographs, photos of La Jolla and photos of San Diego.

Photos of Scripps Pier, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

California, La Jolla, San Diego

Photos of Scripps Pier, La Jolla

Below is the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Research Pier, the pier that supports the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. The original wooden Scripps Pier was built in 1915 and was replaced by the modern cement pier in 1988. On the hill behind the pier can be seen many of the buildings that make up Scripps Institute of Oceanography. To the left (north) is the southern edge of Black’s Beach, while if one walked along the beach to the right (south) one would come to La Jolla Shores Beach in a few minutes. When I was in grad school I worked in the Norpax building on the far left above the sandstone bluff. Some of the greatest minds in all of science work on this hill, wearing flip-flops as their laser brains study climate change and deep ocean phenomena, and go surfing at the pier at lunch. It’s brutal living in Southern California.

Scripps Pier, predawn abstract study of pier pilings and moving water, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California

Scripps Pier, predawn abstract study of pier pilings and moving water.
Image ID: 26340
Location: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, USA

Scripps Pier, sunrise, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California

Scripps Pier, sunrise.
Image ID: 26456
Location: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, USA

Research pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography SIO, sunset, La Jolla, California

Research pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography SIO, sunset.
Image ID: 26531
Location: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, USA

SIO Pier.  The Scripps Institution of Oceanography research pier is 1090 feet long and was built of reinforced concrete in 1988, replacing the original wooden pier built in 1915. The Scripps Pier is home to a variety of sensing equipment above and below water that collects various oceanographic data. The Scripps research diving facility is located at the foot of the pier. Fresh seawater is pumped from the pier to the many tanks and facilities of SIO, including the Birch Aquarium. The Scripps Pier is named in honor of Ellen Browning Scripps, the most significant donor and benefactor of the Institution, La Jolla, California

SIO Pier. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography research pier is 1090 feet long and was built of reinforced concrete in 1988, replacing the original wooden pier built in 1915. The Scripps Pier is home to a variety of sensing equipment above and below water that collects various oceanographic data. The Scripps research diving facility is located at the foot of the pier. Fresh seawater is pumped from the pier to the many tanks and facilities of SIO, including the Birch Aquarium. The Scripps Pier is named in honor of Ellen Browning Scripps, the most significant donor and benefactor of the Institution.
Image ID: 22293
Location: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, USA

Scripps Pier, sunrise, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California

Scripps Pier, sunrise.
Image ID: 26458
Location: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, USA

Scripps Pier solstice, surfer's view from among the waves, sunset aligned perfectly with the pier. Research pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography SIO, sunset, La Jolla, California

Scripps Pier solstice, surfer’s view from among the waves, sunset aligned perfectly with the pier. Research pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography SIO, sunset.
Image ID: 30150
Location: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, USA

Scripps Pier solstice, sunset aligned perfectly with the pier, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California

Scripps Pier solstice, sunset aligned perfectly with the pier.
Image ID: 28478
Location: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, USA

See more San Diego photos and photos of Scripps Pier.

Brown Pelicans

La Jolla, Pelicans

This morning I photographed brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) in La Jolla. I really don’t need any more photos of pelicans but the setting is so beautiful that I keep returning. I’ve enjoyed these cliffs for 30 years. (We used to cliff dive off of them in college but now the lawyers and beaurocrats have made it illegal.) At this time of year the pelican’s winter plumage is in force, with deep red throat colors and dark brown hind neck on most of the adults. We moved in December, and I was gone most of the month of January, so this was my first trip down to La Jolla this winter even though it is just a few minutes down the coast. All of these were shot with Canon 1Ds Mark III, 300 f/2.8 lens, handheld or with a monopod, some with flash fill.

Brown pelican, golden sunrise light, winter adult breeding plumage, showing bright red gular pouch and dark brown hindneck plumage of breeding adults. This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican, golden sunrise light, winter adult breeding plumage, showing bright red gular pouch and dark brown hindneck plumage of breeding adults. This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning
Image ID: 23624
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican, winter adult breeding plumage, showing bright red gular pouch and dark brown hindneck plumage of breeding adults. This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican, winter adult breeding plumage, showing bright red gular pouch and dark brown hindneck plumage of breeding adults. This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning
Image ID: 23622
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage.
Image ID: 23623
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage.
Image ID: 23625
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

See more brown pelican photos as well as our Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

Brown Pelican Photo

California, Pelicans, Wildlife

See my Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

This brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) is coming in for a landing on the cliffs of La Jolla, California, just after sunrise:

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage.
Image ID: 15122
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

See more photos of brown pelicans.

Keywords: pelican, brown pelican, California brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, pelican head throw, bill throw, La Jolla.

Recent California Snaps

California

A few recent images. Click on any one to see others that are related.

Beach cliffs at Torrey Pines State Reserve:

Sandstone cliffs rise above the beach at Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California

Sandstone cliffs rise above the beach at Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Image ID: 14725
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA

Broken Hill at Torrey Pines State Reserve:

Broken Hill with the Pacific Ocean in the distance.  Broken Hill is an ancient, compacted sand dune that was uplifted to its present location and is now eroding, Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California

Broken Hill with the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Broken Hill is an ancient, compacted sand dune that was uplifted to its present location and is now eroding.
Image ID: 14762
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA

UCSD Central Library:

UCSD Library glows at sunset (Geisel Library, UCSD Central Library), University of California, San Diego, La Jolla

UCSD Library glows at sunset (Geisel Library, UCSD Central Library).
Image ID: 14783
Location: University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, USA

Big Sur Coastline:

Waves blur as they break over the rocky shoreline of Big Sur

Waves blur as they break over the rocky shoreline of Big Sur.
Image ID: 14904
Location: Big Sur, California, USA

Pacific Grove Coastline:

Waves breaking over rocks appear as a foggy mist in this time exposure.  Pacific Grove, Lovers Point

Waves breaking over rocks appear as a foggy mist in this time exposure. Pacific Grove.
Image ID: 14908
Location: Lovers Point, Pacific Grove, California, USA

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Mackerel:

Pacific mackerel.  Long exposure shows motion as blur.  Mackerel are some of the fastest fishes in the ocean, with smooth streamlined torpedo-shaped bodies, they can swim hundreds of miles in a year, Scomber japonicus

Pacific mackerel. Long exposure shows motion as blur. Mackerel are some of the fastest fishes in the ocean, with smooth streamlined torpedo-shaped bodies, they can swim hundreds of miles in a year.
Image ID: 14926
Species: Pacific mackerel, Scomber japonicus

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Anemone:

Fish-eating anemone, Urticina piscivora

Fish-eating anemone.
Image ID: 14940
Species: Fish-eating anemone, Urticina piscivora

Big Wednesday

California, Surf

Big Wednesday : December 21 2005. All of Southern California and Baja gets bombed with good surf, some of the best we’ve seen in 20+ years. Most excellent. I got away for a few hours and saw some guys tackle what is probably an 18 foot La Jolla Cove left. In the photo below, Kyle Blase is on the left, I spoke with him by phone later, he caught five that day and was pretty stoked about it all.

La Jolla Cove only breaks on really big swells.  Giant surf and big waves nail Southern California, December 21, 2005

La Jolla Cove only breaks on really big swells. Giant surf and big waves nail Southern California, December 21, 2005.
Image ID: 14816
Location: La Jolla Cove, California, USA

Pipes below Swami’s, noon. It was enormously crowded in the water and on the cliffs, like I have never seen before. I liked the look of the walls to the south of the point, pretty awesome but would be tough to surf without getting throttled:

Pipes goes off south of Swamis, Encinitas.  Giant surf and big waves nail Southern California, December 21, 2005

Pipes goes off south of Swamis, Encinitas. Giant surf and big waves nail Southern California, December 21, 2005.
Image ID: 14840
Location: Swamis, Encinitas, California, USA

Oceanside Pier, sunset, spongers getting foamy brown room tubes to the delight of the hundreds lined up just above them, cheering in unison as each guy would get barreled.

Bodyboarders tackle big waves at Oceanside Pier, sunset. Giant surf and big waves nail Southern California, December 21, 2005

Bodyboarders tackle big waves at Oceanside Pier, sunset. Giant surf and big waves nail Southern California, December 21, 2005.
Image ID: 14843
Location: Oceanside Pier, California, USA

Photos of Birch Aquarium, La Jolla

California, La Jolla, San Diego

The Birch Aquarium is located at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Completed in 1992, the aquarium was named for benefactors Stephen and Mary Birch. The Birch Aquarium contains over 60 tanks, including a 70,000 gallon kelp forest exhibit and 13,000 gallon shark tank. It is located on a bluff overlooking La Jolla Shores and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

Visitors admire the enormous kelp forest tank in the Stephen Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  The 70000 gallon tank is home to black seabass, broomtail grouper, garibaldi, moray eels and leopard sharks, La Jolla, California

Visitors admire the enormous kelp forest tank in the Stephen Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The 70000 gallon tank is home to black seabass, broomtail grouper, garibaldi, moray eels and leopard sharks.
Image ID: 14542
Location: Stephen Birch Aquarium, La Jolla, California, USA

Visitors admire the enormous kelp forest tank in the Stephen Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  The 70000 gallon tank is home to black seabass, broomtail grouper, garibaldi, moray eels and leopard sharks, La Jolla, California

Visitors admire the enormous kelp forest tank in the Stephen Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The 70000 gallon tank is home to black seabass, broomtail grouper, garibaldi, moray eels and leopard sharks.
Image ID: 14543
Location: Stephen Birch Aquarium, La Jolla, California, USA

Pot-bellied seahorse, male, carrying eggs.  The developing embryos are nourished by individual yolk sacs, and oxygen is supplied through a placenta-like attachment to the male.  Two to six weeks after fertilization, the male gives birth.  The babies must then fend for themselves, and few survive to adulthood, Hippocampus abdominalis

Pot-bellied seahorse, male, carrying eggs. The developing embryos are nourished by individual yolk sacs, and oxygen is supplied through a placenta-like attachment to the male. Two to six weeks after fertilization, the male gives birth. The babies must then fend for themselves, and few survive to adulthood.
Image ID: 14472
Species: Pot-bellied seahorse, Hippocampus abdominalis

Leafy Seadragon, Phycodurus eques

Leafy Seadragon.
Image ID: 07819
Species: Leafy Seadragon, Phycodurus eques

A tropical reef fish tank in the Stephen Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  Built in 1992, the Birch Aquarium has over 60 tanks including a 70000 gallon kelp forest tank and 13000 gallon shark exhibit, La Jolla, California

A tropical reef fish tank in the Stephen Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Built in 1992, the Birch Aquarium has over 60 tanks including a 70000 gallon kelp forest tank and 13000 gallon shark exhibit.
Image ID: 14550
Location: Stephen Birch Aquarium, La Jolla, California, USA

More photos of the kelp forest tank at the Birch Aquarium.

Photos of La Jolla Seals

California, Harbor Seal, La Jolla

Controversy over the La Jolla seals continues. To make a long story short: a group of Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) has taken up residence on the sand at the Children’s Pool, a small pocket cove in La Jolla, California also known as Casa Cove. Their presence there has led to associated restrictions in how people may use the beach. Historically (until the mid 1990’s) the beach has been fully available to people. However, in recent years the beach and waters just offshore have been reserved for exclusive use by the seals to minimize harassment of the seals by people, or simply closed due to seal fecal contamination, essentially making the Children’s Pool a prime seal watching spot but no longer available for most other beach uses. This has caused a heated debate to arise, with the core issue being: To Whom Does The Children’s Pool Beach Belong?

A Pacific harbor seal hauls out on a sandy beach.  This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy.  While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

A Pacific harbor seal hauls out on a sandy beach. This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy. While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach.
Image ID: 00296
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

This Pacific harbor seal has an ear with no external ear flaps, marking it as a true seal and not a sea lion.  La Jolla, California.  This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy.  While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach, Phoca vitulina richardsi

This Pacific harbor seal has an ear with no external ear flaps, marking it as a true seal and not a sea lion. La Jolla, California. This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy. While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach.
Image ID: 01957
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Pacific harbor seals rest while hauled out on a sandy beach.  This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy.  While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

Pacific harbor seals rest while hauled out on a sandy beach. This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy. While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach.
Image ID: 01958
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

It should be noted that these harbor seals are not to be confused with California sea lions (Zalophus californianus). Harbor seals have no external ears and propel themselves in the water with their hind flippers. California sea lions are larger, have distinct external ear flaps and propel themselves with their fore flippers. California sea lions tend to be louder, barking often and engaging in mock sparring amongst themselves, while harbor seals vocalize much less. Occasionally a California sea lion will haul out on the Children’s Pool beach, but in general if you visit the beach and see animals on the sand they will all be harbor seals (and tourists).

A Pacific harbor seal hauls out on a rock.  This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy.  While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

A Pacific harbor seal hauls out on a rock. This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy. While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach.
Image ID: 00940
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California sea lions, Coronado Islands, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lions, Coronado Islands.
Image ID: 02160
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

Historically the Children’s Pool has been the near-exclusive domain of human beach-goers, at least until the mid-1990’s when the harbor seals began to colonize the beach. Until that time, the beach was considered a perfect sunbathing spot and the man-made seawall provided relatively protected waters for people to splash and wade. Eventually, harbor seals came to the same conclusions and began using the beach in large numbers for similar purposes: resting, socializing, birthing and nurturing of their young. Certain interest groups would like to see the beach once again fully available to people for recreation, e.g., swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling and SCUBA diving. Some in this group feel that forcibly removing the seals, or encouraging their departure by modifying the seawall or changing the physical character of the cove and beach, is the way to achieve this.

A Pacific harbor seal eyes the photographer while swimming in the shallows.  This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy.  While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

A Pacific harbor seal eyes the photographer while swimming in the shallows. This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy. While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach.
Image ID: 15546
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Pacific harbor seal, mother and pup, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

Pacific harbor seal, mother and pup.
Image ID: 15750
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Pacific harbor seal, mother and pup, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

Pacific harbor seal, mother and pup.
Image ID: 15752
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Certain opposing interest groups would like the harbor seals to have first rights to the beach in such a way that people may use the beach subject to the constraint that they do not disturb the harbor seals. Note that the key word in this idea is disturb. Depending on how disturbance of the harbor seals is defined, this could mean anything from unfettered use of the beach by people to little or no use at all. They feel that legislation currently on the books, most notably the Marine Mammal Protection Act, guarantees the harbor seals’ continuing use of the Children’s Pool beach free of harassment.

I am often asked my personal opinion on this topic, through calls and emails arising from Oceanlight.com regarding harbor seal photographs. So here it is. My personal opinion is that the beach must be set aside primarily for use by the harbor seals, subject to strict interpretation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, with secondary use by people only to the extent that the harbor seals are not disturbed in any significant way. I also feel that the final determination of what constitutes harassment and disturbance should be determined by wildlife biology experts and marine mammal researchers working in concert with the provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Furthermore, where the definition of harassment and disturbance is unclear, I feel the most conservative position with regard to the welfare of the harbor seals should be taken: keep people far enough away from the harbor seals that harassment is no longer an issue.

Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

Pacific harbor seal.
Image ID: 15765
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

A group of Pacific harbor seals swim in the Childrens Pool in La Jolla, Phoca vitulina richardsi

A group of Pacific harbor seals swim in the Childrens Pool in La Jolla.
Image ID: 15050
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Pacific harbor seal pup, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

Pacific harbor seal pup.
Image ID: 15776
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

In taking this position I am in the company of a number of considerable interested parties, including Sea Shepherd Society and Humane Society of the United States and HSUS again (see page 4). Depending on the participants of the discussion, and especially at the local level, this issue can be quite complex. There are a number of factors which have entered into the discussion, including

  • Original dedication and intent of the beach, including construction of the seawall and “dedication” of the beach to the community and enjoyment of children by generous benefactor Ellen B. Scripps in 1931. The lawyers are having a field day with the details and implications of the 1931 dedication of the beach, including scrutiny of 75-year-old documents that never anticipated such an interesting turn of events as the occupation of a prized beach by pinniped interlopers. One ironic fact concerning the Children’s Pool beach: while it was originally “dedicated” to the children of San Diego (among other things), and for years has provided ideal beach locale for families and kids, now that the seals have taken residence on the beach the Children’s Pool area is probably a greater source of joy to San Diego’s children than it ever was. One simply has to see the happiness and appreciation obvious in a group of kids visiting the beach and admiring the harbor seals to see the truth in this.
  • Some interests maintain that a compromise position is possible: that people can use the beach as they formerly did and that the harbor seals will successfully adapt to a shared use approach. Indeed, a city councilman has supported this idea, which is not a surprise considering politicians tend to avoid controversy if it threatens their career prospects — in this instance, the councilman (Scott Peters) has La Jolla constituents who apparently dislike having the seals in the midst of their tony, waterfront enclave. Compromise is often a noble pursuit, but in this case may be impossible to achieve in practice. Harbor seals are relatively timid animals, easily frightened, so it is difficult to conceive of a situation in which the small Children’s Pool beach and cove can be shared by people and harbor seals on a constant and continuing basis without the people gradually displacing the harbor seals entirely.
  • It is not clear how or when this conflict will be resolved. The City of San Diego and NOAA Fisheries (ex National Marine Fishery Service) are the two primary agencies involved while a number of animal welfare organizations and local user groups are trying to influence matters. I consider the ultimate legislation involved in this issue to be the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and hope that its application is beneficial to the La Jolla seals. It should be noted that the MMPA protects harbor seals but does not offer protections to their habitat. Harbor seals are not threatened or endangered as a species.
  • The La Jolla seal colony is unique in a number of ways and should be considered an important asset in the remarkable coastal ecology that is coastal San Diego. The Children’s Pool haul-out is the only known rookery and haul-out of the Pacific harbor seal in mainland Southern California. (Some uninformed commentators state that “seals” haulout and give birth in many coastal locations of California, but they are clearly confusing harbor seals and sea lions in this regard — the two species are quite distinct and deserve separate recognition and protections. ) The Children’s Pool colony is a productive rookery, with many seal pups being born there each winter (January through April). It is also the only known harbor seal rookery in the world at which people can approach harbor seals so closely to observe them.
  • Certain local interests state that losing the use of the Children’s Pool beach is an unacceptable loss. Some local sport divers and swimmers are particularly vocal in this regard. I personally have made dozens, maybe even 100 or more, dives at the Children’s Pool over the years and feel that while it is a convenient and protected place to enter the water and offshore has enjoyable reef and kelp forest diving, it is not unique in either its diving or swimming offerings and, frankly, is not that great of a dive. One has simply to move 200 yards to the north or south to be in virtually identical environmental surroundings for diving or swimming, with the small inconvenience of a somewhat more difficult entry point.
  • Arguments persist, online and in local newspapers, concerning the precise definition of harassment. These tend to degenerate into anti-MMPA rantings or obtuse navel-consideration. No legislation is perfect, including the MMPA, but its intent is well-founded in the law and how it is implemented, including how harassment applies in the matter of the La Jolla seals, will eventually be made clear. Until then a deliberately and clearly conservative policy regarding harassment biased toward the harbor seals’ welfare is appropriate.

Pacific harbor seal swims in the protected waters of Childrens Pool in La Jolla, California.  This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy.  While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach, Phoca vitulina richardsi

Pacific harbor seal swims in the protected waters of Childrens Pool in La Jolla, California. This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy. While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach.
Image ID: 03016
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

A Pacific harbor seal pup hauls out on a sandy beach.  This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy.  While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

A Pacific harbor seal pup hauls out on a sandy beach. This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy. While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach.
Image ID: 02162
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

A Pacific harbor seal leaves the surf to haul out on a sandy beach.  This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy.  While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

A Pacific harbor seal leaves the surf to haul out on a sandy beach. This group of harbor seals, which has formed a breeding colony at a small but popular beach near San Diego, is at the center of considerable controversy. While harbor seals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other legislation, local interests would like to see the seals leave so that people can resume using the beach.
Image ID: 00277
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Keywords: La Jolla seals, Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi, Children’s Pool, Casa Cove, La Jolla Cove, Marine Mammal Protection Act, photo, underwat