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Rear View Mirror: Video: The day a sea lion made Steveston famous around the world

Who could forget the day a sea lion apparently mistook a young girl for food and pulled her into Steveston Harbour

Few of us can forget the day Steveston Harbour made the news around the globe when a sea lion pulled a young girl into the water.

It was four years ago this weekend that the dramatic two-minute video of the incident went viral, being shared more than 20 million times.

For those with a foggy memory, Vancouver resident Michael Fujiwara was filming with his phone the sea lion swimming next to a fishing boat at the harbour, with a family close by trying to get the sea lion’s attention.

After a minute or so, the young girl sat down on the edge of the wharf, with her back to the water.

In a flash, the Californian sea lion leapt out of water and snatched at the girl’s white dress, pulling her in.

Thankfully, what appeared to be a relative jumped straight in and fished the girl to safety before anything else happened.

The soaked pair and another adult then casually walked away, apparently unscathed.

It’s thought the sea lion was being fed bread by onlookers prior to the incident and likely mistook the girl for food.

Steveston Harbour Authority’s general manager at the time, Bob Baziuk, said he was bombarded with calls from the likes of CNN, BBC and NBC, as well as every major Canadian news organization hoping to understand what happened that Saturday afternoon.

What happened was a large California sea lion evidently mistook a young girl for a loaf of bread, after reportedly being fed and taunted by looky-loos during the day.

“If there is any good to come of this, it is for people to understand the dangers of feeding wild animals,” said Baziuk at the time.

The incident could have been much more serious, said Paul Cottrell, marine mammal coordinator for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Cottrell said the sea lion released the girl once she was in the water, after finding out she wasn’t food. Had a tooth lodged in her or on her dress, she could have been pulled further under water.

“She’s very lucky,” said Cottrell.

 “They’re very big and powerful and have very big teeth. It can be very dangerous,” said Cottrell, noting sea lion bites carry a high risk of infection.