S.O.S. Save our shorebirds

What environmental hypocrites we are here in Southern California! 

Solana Beach is the latest city in Southern California considering opening its beaches to unleashed dogs.

Laws allowing dogs on beaches (and widespread non-enforcement of laws that prohibit dogs on beaches) are partly responsible for a heart-breaking 80 percent decline in our shorebird population since the 1970s, according to the International Shorebirds Survey.

Shorebirds have no choice but to live and forage for food at the beach; it’s their natural habitat, the only place they can survive. All dogs on beaches (including leashed dogs) disturb shorebirds.

It has been well documented scientifically that their mere presence is enough to stress the birds and impair their foraging efficiency. Beyond that, off-leash dogs that actually chase birds are considerably worse.

Not only do these dogs interrupt the foraging and resting time of shorebirds, but in flying around to escape dogs, the birds expend large amounts of energy and precious calories they can’t afford to spare.

They eventually perish as a result of this, and you and I, along with our city officials, are allowing this to happen.

The ultimate environmental hypocrites of all, the California Coastal Commission levies huge fines on anyone whose deck exceeds its length limitations by an inch, but these same commissioners seem to care less about protecting our vulnerable shorebirds from dogs on the beach. Shame on them!

Solana Beach is an epicenter of environmental hypocrisy.

God forbid someone smoke or drink alcohol at the beach, and even plastic bags are outlawed here (I’m for those restrictions, by the way), yet we’re somehow OK with the fact that dogs are killing off our shorebirds.

Officially (wink, wink), Solana Beach law currently allows no dogs or pets of any kind on the beach, as clearly stated by posted signs.

Yet during my daily walk along Solana’s beach, I almost always see several unleashed dogs, especially in the late afternoon, and many of them chase shorebirds.

I’ve never seen a police officer of any kind ticket or even warn anyone with dogs on Solana’s beach, so I always assumed it was legal and that the “no dogs” signs were out of date and the city just forgot to take them down.

In Solana Beach you get a ticket right away if you park your car in the wrong space, but the city looks the other way and doesn’t ticket dog owners who are allowing their dogs to kill off our defenseless shorebirds in their natural habitat.

Thankfully it was from a great distance, but I’ve even seen a dog on Solana’s beach snatch a shore bird in its mouth and run off with it. Of course the dog’s owner looked the other way and pretended not to notice.

Yes, we in Solana Beach parade as environmentalists and we pretend that dogs and shorebirds can coexist happily at the beach, but anyone with an ounce of common sense and honesty knows this is not true. Shame on us!

By the way, mea culpa, mea muy culpa! I’m an environmental hypocrite as well.

As I mentioned, I walk the beach most every day, and I often go out of my way to watch and laugh at the dogs frolicking at Dog Beach in Del Mar, and I can’t wait to attend the Dog Surfing Contest in Del Mar Sept. 8.

I’m all for having dog beaches, but I think they should be far and few between so that shorebirds are protected year-round on the majority of beaches.

On the south border of Solana Beach is Del Mar’s Dog Beach, and just two miles north on Solana Beach’s north border is another dog-friendly beach in Cardiff, so any Solana Beach resident can easily take their dog to these nearby dog beaches. Let’s be honest and ask ourselves: as much fun as it is to watch dogs frolic at our ever-growing number of dog-friendly beaches, is it really worth the price of losing our beautiful shorebirds?

Another important concern: I have never walked through Dog Beach in Del Mar without seeing several instances of dog poop left on the beach. I’m sure it’s only about 3 percent of dog owners who allow this, but that adds up to a lot of dog poop washing into the ocean via waves and the tide. Why haven’t the omnipresent, nettlesome Surfriders spoken out on this issue? Isn’t it dangerous for untreated dog poop to be going directly into the ocean where there are children and adults swimming and surfing? We obviously don’t allow untreated human waste into our ocean, is dog poop any safer?

M.K. Tucker is a Solana Beach resident.

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  1. Zoll Street beach is dog friendly. Located at the western edge of Wequetonsing, this beach has a long, shallow area that is great for kids (and dogs!) to splash and play in the water. There’s sandy and grassy areas and picnic tables.

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