Associate Editor

The Inertia

Part of being ocean enthusiasts means coexisting with what lies beneath, or, in some cases, rests among the natural rocks and reefs along the coastline. As a general rule, it’s probably best not to prod, pose with, or otherwise aggravate wildlife.

With sharks, that’s pretty straightforward. For one, they don’t sunbathe close to shore. But, more importantly, the general public is typically really afraid of sharks. Blame Jaws.

When it comes to the less threatening dog of the sea, the sea lion, folks are considerably less guarded. Case in point, an area of La Jolla where tourists flock to take selfies with the neighborhood sea lions. Some even poke the creatures and run away as the little guys flash their teeth, obviously irritated.


Facebook user Andrea Else Hahn recently took to filming tourists’ behavior with local sea lions, and the result is sad.

“I spent about an hour and a half this late morning/early afternoon, filming the public comport themselves around and about the Sea Lions at the Point La Jolla tide pools,” said Hahn in a December 30 post. “It began subtly enough, with a complete idiot for a Dad placing his infant daughter right next to some already highly stressed puppies, and then the reason for the puppies’ chagrin unfolded with a few surprises to come for all of the Sea Lions attempting to haul out in La Jolla today.”

While the California coast is the natural habitat of sea lions, many San Diego residents would argue that their presence in areas like La Jolla Cove isn’t entirely innocent. In 2014 the San Diego Reader traced a number of instances where sea lions intimidated beachgoers and swimmers, in some cases causing people harm. “On April 16 at 5:04 p.m.,” quotes the article from the local lifeguard log, ‘“seal nuzzles and mounts woman off beach, [lifeguard Mark] Feighan in on board to assist and chase seal away.’” The same article goes on to argue that an increasing number of sea lions in the La Jolla area has also resulted in noise complaints from residents during nighttime hours, and a smell (the article goes so far as to argue La Jolla Cove is becoming a “cesspool”).

The truth, in reality, probably lies somewhere in the middle. This is the sea lions’ natural habitat, after all. So it makes sense they would become territorial around humans. Sea lions are not without blame in that regard. Still, they’re animals, not a tourist attraction. And if the reported instances of intimidation are to be believed, visitors would do well to leave the sea lions alone and keep their distance, before someone gets hurt.

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