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Happy 4th!

June 30, 2010 1 comment

John Adams wrote that the 4th of July  . . . “ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other…”

Of course if he had anticipated that one day the other end of the continent would include a state called California, he might have added . . . .

Unless the discharge of said illuminations (“fireworks”) results in extremely loud noises and bright lights at the Children’s Pool. The seals at the Children’s Pool are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, which precludes the “take” of any seal. “Take” is defined to include harassment. Fireworks displays in close proximity to seals constitute harassment under the Marine Mammal Protection Act . . . of 1972 As Amended (Pub. L. 92-522, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1361 et seq.)

Seriously.  The above language is from a lawsuit filed on June 25, 2010, by the Costal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF) against the City of San Diego, California, The LaJolla Community Fireworks Foundation, Inc. and Promote LaJolla, Inc.

As a side note, I must say the environmental folks (CERF) definitely won the acronym war because they can phonetically be referred to as “surf” which has a strong ocean/beach tie in for marketing purposes.  Unless for some unknown reason they were going for a connection with Bennett Cerf.  Hmmmm. . . maybe since Cerf was founder of Random House, which published Dr. Seuss children’s books, and Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel) was a longtime San Diego resident living on hill high above the Children’s Pool?  Okay, probably not.  On with the story.

A little history . .  the Children’s Pool is a San Diego beach area protected by a seawall built in 1931 by a local philanthropist for “the children”, hence the name.  A nice protected sandy beach with calm waters perfect for frolicking without risk of being swept away by a wave.  So far so good.

But in the mid 1990s, an unruly mob of seals moved onto the beach because they too were attracted by the calm waters of a protected beach.  Imagine that.  The poor seals probably had never before seen in nature such an ideal setting and couldn’t believe their good fortune.  Well, word got out about the seawall with the calm water and pretty soon as many as 200 seals took up residence on the warm, sandy beach.  And the seals, being nobody’s fool, realized they were protected from “harassment” by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 As Amended and immediately retained legal counsel to protect themselves from actual human children.

So litigation ensued which has included various city, state, and federal marine agencies, commissions, and boards, that no one had ever heard of along with concerned-citizen-environmental-activists-selling-t-shirts.  Over 10 years of litigation has addressed such issues as “continuously high fecal coliform counts” because, much to the chagrin of the environmental t-shirt sellers, the seals had apparently been polluting the calm ocean water by not washing their hands after using the restroom.  Also, the courts considered other weighty matters such as was whether to construct a rope barrier on the beach to protect the seals from camera wielding tourists.  Sort of celebrities (seals) vs. paparazzi (humans), with which California has much experience.

Which brings us to the current day litigation of whether or not the seals might be “harassed” by fireworks.  What happened to the good old days when seals worried about being made into a coat like the one worn in November 2009 by the Lt. Governor of Newfoundland (I hear it’s in Canada)?  But the biggest worry for pampered seals in California?  They might have to share the beach with bratty kids and also put up with fireworks once a year.  Surely it would be easier to drop the litigation and just get special seal earplugs and sunglasses. Then California could get back to more pressing matters such as spending so much money on public employee pensions that even Greece would be embarrassed. Happy 4th.