‘Please don’t’: Biologists irked after man plucks baby seal onto boat off Vancouver Island

“I got a call from a lady in Texas saying her husband … has a seal pup on his boat”

A baby seal was ‘rescued’ by an American sport fisherman from Port McNeill two weeks ago, but local observers say the pup still had its umbilical cord attached, and that its mum had been seen nearby.

The boater allegedly ignored this advice, picked up the seal pup and brought it to his boat. He set off towards Vancouver and called his wife in Texas.

“I got a call from a lady in Texas saying her husband was up here fishing and said he has a seal pup on his boat,” said Lindsaye Akhurst, manager at the Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre based in Vancouver. The wife had called to find out what her husband should do, and what he should feed the pup.

“Please don’t!” Akhurst told her.

A seal pup’s diet is very specific, and she guessed it would have been more than stressed after being relocated to a large sport fishing boat. When Akhurst spoke with the fisherman, it was tense and difficult.

“He was very adamant that the animal did need assistance and that what he was doing was the correct thing to do,” she said.

What he didn’t know was that the B.C. Marine Mammal Response Network were already observing the baby, and had seen an adult seal nearby. There was no reason for concern at the time.

It’s normal for seal mothers to leave their pups on shore while they go fishing, and can sometimes be away for up to 24 hours. It’s best to observe from a safe distance for a while. If the mother sees a lot of threatening humans around her pup, she may abandon it and not come back at all.

By now the seal had been on the boat overnight and was getting dehydrated.

“It’s probably going to die,” the man told Akhurst in a panic.

Despite strained disagreement over his actions, the fisherman and Akhurst agreed the seal couldn’t stay on the boat. She coordinated with volunteers in Campbell River, now the nearest port, to pick up the pup. They met at the dock in full personal protective equipment.

Scientists don’t know whether marine animals are at risk of COVID-19, and the Marine Mammal Rescue staff took extra precautions just in case.

Zenon Samuel photographed in Port McNeill before he was plucked off the log and “rescued” by a visiting sport fisherman. In this image the umbilical cord is still attached. Locals were observing the seal and knew an adult was nearby. (Submitted photo)

WATCH: Sea lion with gruesome crossbow wounds rescued from log boom in Powell River

“We don’t want to find out this way.”

The baby seal was driven to Nanaimo and flown to the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre in Vancouver. He arrived dehydrated and malnourished, and was quickly fed zoological milk formula. Two weeks later the pup – named Zenon Samuel by donors – is gaining weight and learning to fish. Soon he’ll join a couple of other seals in a larger tank where they’ll practice competing for food. When he reaches over 20 kilograms Zenon will go back to the wild.

Disturbing a marine mammal is a federal offence. This situation was reported to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, but no word yet on whether they plan to file charges.

Officials are reminding the public to stay back that when they see a marine mammal in distress, to keep other people and pets away, and call the rescue centre at 604-258-7325 or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans hotline at 1-800-465-4336.

The Marine Mammal Rescue Centre has a page for each ‘patient’ in care, including Zenon Samuel.

Zenon Samuel photographed in Port McNeill before he was plucked off the log and “rescued” by a visiting sport fisherman. Locals were observing the seal and knew an adult was nearby. (Submitted photo)

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

fishingseals

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Courtney Driver is the new president of the 100 Mile Performing Arts Society. (Photo submitted)
100 Mile Performing Arts Society elects new president

Courtney Driver wants to provide more diverse events

Erica Henderson the supervisor of early year services and programs at South Cariboo Early Years Centre and others were giving out Halloween Family Activity Kits the week leading up to Halloween. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Halloween activity kits offered to kids at home

South Cariboo Early Years Centre is finding ways to bring activities into children’s homes.

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
Interior Health records third COVID-19 death

A new community outbreak was reported at Okanagan Men’s Centre in Lake Country

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerskson of the BC Liberal Party and his partner Shelley Wiese celebrate at his campaign office in downtown Williams Lake Oct. 24. Doerkson has been elected as the new MLA in Cariboo-Chilcotin. (Angie Mindus photo)
Updated: Lorne Doerkson elected in Cariboo Chilcotin in preliminary results

Outgoing MLA Donna Barnett said win is ‘exciting’ for region

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports seven more COVID-19 cases

Eighty-nine cases remain active, none of whom are currently hospitalized

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Most Read