‘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

Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions, centre, and councillor Deb Haggard speak with Graham Hughes and others at a protest in front of the Port Alberni Shelter (Our Home on Eighth). Hughes and supporters have been at the shelter since Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
BC Housing agrees to review of Port Alberni shelter

City’s mayor, shelter’s executive director welcome news of independent review

Port Alberni RCMP have told protesters at a tent city in front of the Port Alberni Shelter (Our Home on Eighth) to take down their tents and leave the area. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Shelter protest organizer arrested, released in Port Alberni

Supporters told to take down tent city or face arrest, protesters say

The City of Port Alberni and Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District are working on Housing Needs Reports and are seeking public feedback. (SUSAN QUINN / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
City of Port Alberni, ACRD release housing survey

Survey open to Alberni Valley residents until Nov. 16

In this photo illustration, a provincial election mail-in ballot sealed in an Elections B.C. return envelope is seen before being deposited in a Canada Post mailbox, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. The final result of British Columbia’s provincial election won’t be known for at least two weeks because more than 700-thousand mail-in ballots have to be counted by hand. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Mail-in ballots flowing into electoral offices

More than 4,000 received for Mid Island-Pacific Rim riding so far

Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions, centre, and councillor Deb Haggard speak with Graham Hughes and others at a protest in front of the Port Alberni Shelter (Our Home on Eighth). Hughes and supporters have been at the shelter since Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
City of Port Alberni calls for investigation into shelter allegations

Former provincial election candidate organized protest in front of PA Shelter

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Most Read