DFO will not lay charges against Texan who snatched baby seal in Port McNeill

Public education about marine mammal safety better route, DFO says

Charges will not be laid against a Texan sport fisherman who snatched a baby seal from a marina in Port McNeill, despite the fact that disturbing a marine mammal is a federal crime, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

Since this story became public, locals have been irate to hear of an American fisherman in Canadian waters. But according to Marine Mammal Rescue Centre staff, the individual has dual citizenship with Canada and was legally permitted to be here.

The DFO has opted to focus on public education rather than formal charges, hoping to prevent similar situations from occuring.

“Should you encounter a lone seal pup, please keep your distance and do not attempt to remove the seal as it may not need rescuing and your actions can endanger its life,” writes the DFO in an educational bulletin.

Seals spend up to a third of their life on land, so sighting a lone pup is not cause for alarm.

“The mothers may simply be out foraging, or frightened away by human presence and will shortly return to reclaim and tend to their pup.”

READ MORE: ‘Please don’t’: Biologists irked after American plucks baby seal onto boat near Port McNeill

The seal pup was young enough that its umbilical cord was still visible. It had been lying on a log beside the Port McNeill marina in mid-July for a few days. Locals were observing the pup and knew the mother was nearby.

“It definitely was healthy. It had no neck, like, it was chunky,” said one local who asked to remain unnamed. People had been taking pictures of the seal, but were keeping a safe distance.

“Then this Texan rolled in there and knew better than everyone else. People were telling him, ‘Don’t take it, don’t touch it.’ But he took it, leapt onto his boat and left,” said Port McNeill local Jeff Aoki.

Initially, the boater resisted offers of help from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, according to manager Lindsaye Akhurst. He was intermittently available that afternoon, either in and out of cell service, or hiding as some locals suggested.

“Our conversation wasn’t as positive as it could have been,” Akhurst said.

It was hard to get a clear answer from him about where he was and where he was heading. The next morning she called again and he agreed to deliver the pup to waiting volunteers in Campbell River. Akhurst never mentioned the fact that his actions were a possible federal offence, “just in case he changed his mind.”

The pup is now in care in Vancouver and is doing well.

“Unfortunately he’s an orphan now. To us it’s appalling. This is our backyard, you just don’t do that,” Aoki said.

It’s one of the craziest incidents Akhurst has worked on, but not unique. She’s had people call in after having a seal in their bathtub for two days. They call because the seal isn’t eating and they’re getting nervous. Colleagues have had people put seal pups in backpacks and hike along beach trails with them. They seem to have good, but blatantly uninformed intentions.

The bottom line is: don’t touch wild animals. If something really seems wrong, call the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604-258-7325 or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans hotline at 1-800-465-4336.

Additional information on seal encounters can be seen here from the DFO: https://waves-vagues.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Library/4058382x.pdf

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.

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

 

Just Posted

RCMP
RCMP know of witnesses to Oct. 15 attack; want them to come forward

Appeal made to their ‘sense of right and wrong’

BC ELECTION
Liberal and NDP leaders’ election tours swing through North Island

Wilkinson holds forestry rally and Horgan talks wild salmon

MARS Wildlife Hospital just got approval for a new ambassador bird. They are hoping the community will help come up with a name for the bird, currently known as Barred Owl 783. Here, Barred Owl 783 stretches their wings as they’re accompanied by MARS President Warren Warttig on Oct. 11, 2020. Photo by Marissa Tiel – Campbell River Mirror
Hoot, hoot: MARS Wildlife Centre looks for name for new ambassador bird

Barred Owl 783 came to the wildlife centre after crashing into a window last fall

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

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

(File photo)
RCMP: Two men face charges in reported Parksville fatal hit-and-run

Investigation into man’s death began in August of 2019

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Most Read