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Wearing out welcome

The sea lions are back in Newport Harbor, and they’re not the only

ones barking.

Harbor residents say the sea lions are destroying property and

peace and quiet. But the sea lions are protected mammals, which

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limits actions by the Harbor Patrol.

The sea lions’ barking is keeping residents awake at night. And

over Labor Day weekend, a group of sea lions climbed aboard a boat

and sunk it under their weight.

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Sharon Allen, who lives on Balboa Peninsula, said she can hardly

stand the noise.

“They’re making it impossible for the people that live here to

sleep,” Allen said. “It’s like 10 or 15 huge dogs barking

constantly.”

The harbor is currently home to five “aggressive” bull sea lions

who are helping themselves to sunning spots on boats moored in the

harbor, said Sgt. John Whitman of the Orange County Sheriff’s

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Department Harbor Patrol.

They climb onto to the boats, using the swim steps, and sunbathe

on the decks, Whitman said.

On Sunday, a group of sea lions climbed onto a 37-foot sailboat,

weighting it down until the boat took on water, Whitman said. Harbor

Patrol moved the boat to another mooring to avoid a second sinking,

he added.

“Now I understand the sea lions have actually followed that thing

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back there,” Whitman said.

Carter Ford, a member of a subcommittee of the city’s Harbor

Resources Department, said residents are raising their own ruckus

about the sea lion situation.

Ford lives on Lido Isle and can hardly hear the sea lions from his

home but said he encounters them regularly.

Sailing in a race several weeks ago inside the harbor, Ford

suddenly found himself face to face with a sea lion.

“It was nose to nose with me,” Ford said.

The sea lions are a regular sight -- and sound -- around the

harbor, Ford said. They lounge on anything that floats and often

compete for the space, Ford said.

“They seem to be somewhat territorial,” Ford said.

After watching sea lions invade a sailboat in the harbor, Allen

said something has to be done about the noise and the destruction

caused when the sea lions climb aboard private boats.

“I just think the city needs to address the problem and nobody

seems to be doing anything,” Allen said.

Residents are fed up, but the Harbor Patrol contends there’s

little it can do to remove the sea lions, which are protected under

federal law, Whitman said.

“Pretty much all we can do is, if they’re on the boat, we can

pretty much advise the boat owner to try and take some sort of

protective measures to keep the sea lions off their boats,” Whitman

said.

When the Harbor Patrol receives a call complaining of sea lions on

a private boat, the sea lions usually leave once the Harbor Patrol

boat gets too close, Whitman said.

“As soon as we leave the area, they jump right back on,” Whitman

said.

The Harbor Patrol discourages using any type of sharp deterrent

that could harm the animal. Instead, a wedge block of wood, affixed

to the swim steps, can prevent the sea lion from climbing onto the

boat, Whitman said.

If boat owners visit their boats frequently, it helps keep sea

lions away, Whitmore said.

“The boats they tend to congregate on are the boats that people

are never on,” Whitmore said.

The sea lions may be disrupting life in the harbor, but sea

mammals come with the territory of living in a marine environment,

Whitman said.

* LAUREN VANE covers public safety and courts. She may be reached

at (714) 966-4618 or lauren.vaneo7@latimes.comf7.


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