The proposed bans, intended to discourage sea lions from spending
time in Newport Harbor by limiting food sources, only mark a starting
point, Harbor Commissioner Seymour Beek said. Beek considers the
animals' presence in the harbor to be a serious problem, since
animals can damage boats by lounging on vessels or keeping residents
up at all hours with their loud barking.
"How would you like to pay $5 million for a house, and you can't
go to sleep because a sea lion is barking all night?" Beek asked.
"People think the sea lions are cute. But to the people who hear them
all night, they're not."
As for what options exist to deter sea lions in the harbor, Beek
said the harbor commission could use advice from marine experts who
know how to deal with the animals. City harbor resources division
staffers plan to gather information in the near future by touring the
harbor with a representative from the National Marine Fisheries
Harbor resources staff recommended both bans to the commission. In
a report to the commission, harbor resources manager Tom Rossmiller
compiled a list of sea lion countermeasures that have been attempted
elsewhere. Many of those methods -- such as annoying animals with
noise and frightening sea lions with underwater firecrackers --
Rossmiller described as ineffective.
One idea that does seem to deter the animals from hanging around,
Rossmiller wrote, is to install physical barriers around boats' swim
steps, and spray the sea lions with water.
Sea lions are protected under laws such as the federal Marine
Mammal Protection Act. Orange Coast College marine biologist Dennis
Kelly said legal protections are an important reason the animals
thrive in places like Newport Harbor.
In addition to having the advantage of legal protections, sea
lions are also some of the smartest animals in the harbor. Rossmiller
wrote that when loud noises were used to deter sea lions from
fisheries, the animals eventually learned the sound meant food was
"Scientists who do research on marine mammals will tell you there