Cormorants and brown pelicans nearly became extinct in the 1970s because of the pesticide DDT. The brown pelican was taken off the federal endangered species list in 2010, and its population, including the Caribbean and Latin America, is estimated at more than 650,000. The total U.S. cormorant population is about 2 million.
La Jolla is a state-designated area of "special biological significance." That means California strictly regulates its waters to protect its abundant marine life, which also attracts birds.
"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."