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

Daylight Saving Time officially ends at 2 a.m. Sunday when it’s time to turn the clocks back one hour.
Time for a change

Put your clocks back one hour before going to bed Saturday night

Cowichan’s Nicole Pugh collects the ball deep in the Gorge end during her team’s season opener at the Sherman Road turf last Friday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Cowichan United runs with the big guns

Women’s soccer team holds its own against defending Div. 1 champs

Tim Gosley will be passing on some of his puppetry wisdom with a talk and workshop in Duncan in November. (Submitted)
CVAC ready to play next month in Duncan

Puppetry, Lego, basketry and more

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.

Matt Arnett of the Cowichan 49ers gets his head on the ball during his team’s recent meeting with the Cowichan Steelheads. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen0
Cowichan 49ers make improvements against UVic

Steelheads still looking for first goal of season

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

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

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

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

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

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Most Read