SAN DIEGO —
"We're kind of a victim of our own success," said Robert Pitman, a marine biologist at the National Marine Fisheries Service in La Jolla. "We've provided a lot of bird protections so now we're getting a lot of birds. I think we're going to be seeing more of these conflicts come about, and I think we'll have to deal with them on a case-by-case basis. I think there'll have to be compromises all around."
In Canada, guano from cormorants has been blamed for the destruction of native vegetation, while in Mississippi, catfish farmers loathe the sleek, black birds because their keen fishing skills cost them millions every year.
In La Jolla, the birds took over the rocks after the city prohibited people from walking there years ago for safety reasons. There has been little rain to wash away the feces.
George Hauer, who owns the gourmet restaurant George's At The Cove, launched an online petition that has garnered more than 1500 signatures. It states: "The cormorant colony at the La Jolla cove has reached critical mass with their excrement. The smell is overtaking the entire village. The result is a loss of business and a potential public health disaster."
Any cleaning method will require a permit, city officials say. The area is regulated by several government agencies. Washing it with a non-toxic solution would cause concern because of the run off into the ocean, state officials say. Even using just water could cause problems since guano discharged into the ocean in high concentrations would be considered a pollutant.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner — lauded by animal lovers for placing a security camera at a nearby beach to catch anyone harassing seals there — has promised to find a fix. He wants something a solution before summer arrives and tourism peaks. He's suggesting the rocks be "vacuumed," but hasn't supplied details.