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

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

Jennifer Rice BC NDP North Coast Incumbent was re-elected for a third according to the preliminary results on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Jennifer Rice is North Coast MLA for third term

Preliminary election results show NDP Majority government

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Subsea fibre optics running from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and and then south to Vancouver will improve high-speed internet connection options for Coastal Communities, CityWest said on Oct. 13.
Subsea fibre optics running from north of Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and and then south to Vancouver will improve high-speed internet connection options for Coastal communities, CityWest said on Oct. 13. (Black Press Media)
CityWest to refresh subsea fibre optics project

Fibre optics project to run cable from north of Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii then south to Vancouver

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read