Illegal Defense: Improper Techniques of Seal Prevention

A dock in Newport Beach Harbor apparently used nails to defend against seals.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — A reader of The Log recently sent us a few photos of a dock in Newport Beach Harbor, with the sharp ends of long nails sticking out from its edges. The nails were apparently being used to deter – and injure – any seals seeking to claim a spot on the dock.

The Log reached out to the city of Newport Beach and two state agencies – the California Coastal Commission and Fish and Game Commission – to determine whether nails could be used in this manner to deter seals away from a dock.

We’re unsure who owns this dock or who placed these nails sharp side up along its perimeter. It’s also unclear whether these photos where doctored.


Seal Deterrent






What we were able to confirm, however, is the use of nails in the manner portrayed in these photos is illegal. No one is allowed to use the sharp end of nails to prevent a seal from jumping onto a dock.


Two sections of Newport Beach’s Municipal Code – 10.50.020 (Nuisances) and 17.25 (Berthing, Mooring and Storage) – were cited. Chapter 17.25 specifically stated: “Appropriate deterrent measures shall be defined as the latest methodology permitted by National Marine Fisheries Service to minimize sea lion boarding of vessels assigned to a mooring.”

“Appropriate deterrent measures,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), include:

  • Closely spaced posts
  • Bull rails
  • Netting
  • Swim step protector
  • Flags
  • Pinwheels
  • Streamers
  • Flashing lights or strobes
  • Balloons
  • Horns
  • Whistles
  • Bells
  • Clapping or banging on pots, pans or drums
  • Music
  • Bird screamers.

“Guard dogs are not included on the list of suggested measures because of risks to both dogs and marine mammals, including the potential risk of disease transmission between them,” NOAA staff stated.

NOAA listed the following deterrent measures as techniques to avoid:

  • Firearms with “live” (lethal) ammunition
  • Devices with injurious projectiles (archery gear, crossbows, spear guns, bangsticks)
  • Sharp/pointed objects (harpoons, spears, gaffs, nail studded bats/poles/clubs)
  • Entangling devices (loose webbing, snares, concertina wire)
  • Aggressive tactile methods (no striking animals with bats, hammers etc., impact with vehicles or boats)
  • Tainted baits or poisons.

Sea lions are a protected species under federal law (Marine Mammal Protection Act, or MMPA). Anyone who has questions on best techniques to deter sea lions should contact their local harbor patrol or law enforcement office. NOAA’s West Coast Fisheries office in Long Beach is also available for advisement or guidance; the office can be reached at 562-980-4050.

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3 thoughts on “Illegal Defense: Improper Techniques of Seal Prevention

  • I have seen electrified wires placed at marina dock edges at Monterey marinas. I don’t think this an approved deterrent.

  • Confirmation that a picture is worth a thousand words. Lazy, intellectually deprived, sociopathic, cruel, abusive and compassionless comes to mind looking at these photos — the individual, club or business that created and installed these nail docks should be identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

  • john delaurentis

    What if a human – child, adult – or pet ventured onto this dock in darkness, unaware of the potentially lethal danger of the nail boards? DUH!



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