Gigantic urban agglomerations and barely populated villages alike have their own local problems. Even in a paradise free of major socioeconomic issues, such as La Jolla, we can still smell trouble like sea lion and bird poop. For the past few years, the area has been suffering from a natural yet nauseous smell — feces from the animals of La Jolla Cove. A seemingly minor inconvenience causes strong feelings in the hearts and noses of La Jollans. But with rotating plastic cylinders to humanely displace the sea lions, it is time to end the stink once and for all.
The problem with the foul scent of animal and bird excrements began in La Jolla Cove when city authorities decided to put up a fence along the cliffs to prevent people from entering an unsafe sheer area. While making the cliffs safer for tourists and residents, the fence created a people-free zone that sea lions and birds gladly occupied. The unusually large concourse of animals soon befouled their new habitat, producing an unbearable smell that quickly spread due to prevailing ocean winds.
Local businesses were the first to complain about the odor, as it came with negative reviews from customers disturbed by the stench. To fight for fresh air in their establishments, owners of George’s at the Cove and the La Valencia Hotel filed a lawsuit ordering the city of San Diego and the state of California to solve the issue of the stench of animal droppings, but the initiative was eventually rejected.
Despite the city’s refusal to address the problem, the locals, for whom having a Saturday brunch while overlooking the ocean is comparable to a weekly religious ritual, did not give up on the stink. First, a gate was placed in the fence to allow people to access La Jolla Cove. This measure was supposed to deter birds and sea lions from coming to the bluffs by bringing back human presence, but the animals quickly became accustomed to humans constantly taking selfies. The city also invested in a natural bioactive product that was sprayed around the cliffs three times a month to neutralize the odor. Unfortunately, this procedure also turned out to be effective exclusively against the smell of bird droppings, leaving the smell of sea lion’s excrement unresolved.
After suggesting numerous creative yet problematic solutions, this year, La Jolla’s residents put forward another anti-sea lion know-how. They proposed introducing rotating plastic cylinders along the cliff area to prevent the animals from climbing up the rocks. This simple device matches the standards of safety and is harmless for sea lions. However, we have already intervened in nature by building up a fence, causing just as much harm as good, so it is undetermined how the inflatable cylinders will affect local wildlife. Sneaky sea lions might learn how to circumvent the newly built obstacles just as they got used to people. It is also possible that they move out to an area further away from Downtown La Jolla. But even if they wave goodbye for good, it is not the best-case scenario, as La Jolla will lose one of its main tourist attractions. We have to consider all these possibilities, but also should ask ourselves: Is the problem worthy of three years of continuous debate, or is it a classic example of using privilege to get one’s way?
One might say that we need to leave sea lions and birds alone. However, if the cylinder solution is humane and sea lions have a place to relocate, maybe we should give this invention a try. A simple solution could effectively help sea lions, business owners and residents part as friends. Sea lions will go back to living in a less-inhabited portion of the wild, people will enjoy fresh air and the blessings of civilization and local publications will stop the never-ending flow of articles dedicated to the “poop problem.” They will all live, for the time being, happily ever after.