An incredible moment captured on video at Steveston’s newly renovated Fisherman’s Wharf is a sobering reminder not to feed and approach wild sea lions, after one pulled a young girl beneath the Fraser River Saturday afternoon.
Michael Fujiwara posted the video to his YouTube account, showing the sea lion lunging up toward a small girl and then pulling on her white dress in order to pull her off the wharf.
A man described as a family member, according to reports, pulled the girl to safety. Fujiwara said no one was injured in the ordeal.
During the roughly two-minute video, the sea lion could be seen circling beneath the wharf, next to a fishing boat. At one point it appears to be fed something, as one woman describes it as “cute.” And, prior to the stunning takedown of the girl, it lunges toward her, as if to test its reach.
Seconds later, the girl turns her back to the water, sits on the edge, and the sea lion lunges again to pull her into the water — this time successful.
Shaken, the girl reunites with family members and walks away.
At the old wharf there were signs telling the public not to feed the sea lions. It’s unclear if the new wharf had such signage.
Steveston Harbour Authority officials and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans frequently remind the public not to feed the wildlife.
Lara Sloan, a spokesperson for DFO, told the News in 2015 that feeding a sea lion can cause it to lose its natural wariness of humans or boats, as well as condition it to associate humans with food.
Sloan said a sea lion might unintentionally bite or otherwise harm a human if being provoked by food.
“These changed behaviours may be passed on to their young and other members of their social groups and increases their risk of injury from boats, entanglement in fishing gear, and intentional harm by people frustrated with the behavioral changes,” noted Sloan via email.
Sea lions frequent Steveston’s docks thanks in part to people feeding them.
They can weigh several hundred kilograms.
Sloan noted under the Marine Mammal Regulations, it is an offence to disturb a marine mammal.