About a month ago in Laguna Beach, I had an unexpected encounter with a seal. Adrian Rejon and I had just wrapped up a surf session and on our way out we noticed a seal pup. He was looking rather thin and a bit lethargic walking along the shore. Observing from a distance you could see that the young pup would stop about every 10 feet to catch his breath and look over his shoulder. We did what we thought was best and stopped in our tracks, dropped our gear, and observed until he was a safe distance away so that we could walk by. The last thing we wanted to do was scare this tired pup back into waves that were very turbulent that day.
Suddenly a group of tourists began walking after the seal after noticing it walking along the sand. With the usual, “awe how cute” and “omg, it’s a seal!” Not too big of a deal right? But then some kook in the group with a large camera started chasing the poor pup to get a close up. Mind you this kook had a lens long enough to take pictures from quite a distance. Anyway, I just could not help myself, I said, “hey guy…would you mind stepping back a little?” He turns around and gives me the, “who me?” look. “Yeah bud, give ’em some space I’m going to call someone to come out right now.” He gave me a snarling look and walked away — I tend to be outspoken when it comes to these matters.
After we left, a conversation ensued on what had transpired that morning at the beach. Adrian and I soon realized we actually had no idea what we should do in that situation. So I picked up the phone and called the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
To ride waves is to co-exist with nature. Everyone who enjoys the ocean can agree that we not only need to respect marine animals, but we also need to protect them.
1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Here you will be able to learn not only the types of animals that you might encounter but how you should or should not interact with them.
Fact: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”
– Baba Dioum
2. Laguna Ocean Foundation: This is a great resource for learning about tide pools and the marine life that lives and thrives amongst the reefs & rocks on our coast. They even provide educational courses on a ongoing basis that is free to the public.
Fact: Without experimental research and monitoring, the effectiveness of MPAs could not be studied.
3. Pacific Marine Mammal Center: If you happen to encounter an animal on the beach or in the water and you’re not exactly sure what to do you can always call PMMC and they will be more than happy to assist you with any questions you may have.
Fact: Marine mammals are protected by Federal Law and it is unlawful for unauthorized persons to handle them. Do not touch or feed the animal. Do not try to return the animal to the water. If the animal is ill, it has come on shore to be warm and dry. Feeding a severely malnourished animal can actually harm them!
Hopefully these resources will give you the knowledge necessary to be a respectful steward of our playground.