Dying Baby Sea Lion, La Jolla Cove Sunday March 12, 2017
I love going to La Jolla on Sundays. It’s a wealthy place, extreme privilege generally and therefore largely uninteresting to me…..except down by the ocean along the promenade, and on the beach. Lots of people of varying backgrounds come to enjoy the beauty of the area. Families show up to picnic on the lawn of the little park on the promenade, and visitors from all parts of the world feel comfortable and secure there. It’s a place to relax and enjoy the stereotype that is California, the experience that a visitor can be deeply impressed by, and one that can make you sell all of your possessions and do whatever it takes to come here to live. That’s what I did seven years ago. But that’s the superficial, deeply pleasing initial view, the one that enchants at first, almost like a soulmate would.
Every time I go to The Cove, without exception, I witness several instances of extreme cruelty to the marine life that inhabits the area and is a major draw to both the tourists and locals. I can count on getting into at least one fight on account of my (at times) unstable anger management skills being put to the test when I watch people doing inexplicably insensitive things to the animals in the tide pools and in the parks. Crushing the little crabs that live their lives in and around the little rocky pools of water along the rocks that form the tide pools, throwing them, poking them. This past Sunday I had a verbal joust with the family of a boy that took his soccer ball and threw it with all of his might into a flock of seagulls hanging out on the grassy lawn, waiting for a handout. These birds are unusually large, very substantial creatures. The ball hit the bird with force, making a sound that was similar to the way a punch on the back would sound–low and hard and deep. People stood around, silently. I got into it with the boy’s father, and not one family member of this large group stepped in to counsel the boy, and explain to him why it’s wrong to behave this way with animals.
The seals and sea lions are the ones that really need protection from verbal and physical harassment. The seals, beautiful and spotted and angelic, have their own society and a group of dedicated docents that physically create barriers to the public, especially during this time of year which is birthing season. Outside of birthing season, on many days it’s a free for all, people allowing their children to go as far as to strike the animals, throw sand at them, little rocks….I live for these moments because it feels great to step in and let one of these parents have it. These instances occur many times per hour on a crowded day. The sea lions are suffering miserably as well, in part due to harassment and insensitivity as well as El Nino style weather that has altered sea currents and destroyed the food supply that they need to thrive. As a result, the pups and juveniles are malnourished, battling internal parasites, and wasting away on the beach. Most people don’t seem to register the skeletal babies, their forms no longer sleek and supple, the hide draped over the unusual bony structure that distinguishes these marine mammals from all others. I hear laughter, photograph manic selfie sessions, listen to the animals roar and snort at the hordes who are poking, touching, taunting and at times yelling at the animals. It’s possible to call Sea World to come rescue a baby such as the one I photographed above, but late on a Sunday afternoon they’ve gone home. This baby was near death, and hardly stirred as I took close pictures with a wide angle lens. It’s not okay to get as close as I did for this one, but I felt that it was important to do so for a moment or two.
Young woman sitting on a bench with her boyfriend, gazing out at the ocean. Incredibly striking, and impossible to walk past without asking for the privilege.