Feeding harbour seals can be both dangerous for the animal and humans

Feeding harbour seals can be both dangerous for the animal and humans

Federal law proposes measures to ban feeding, disturbing seals

Amendments are being made to the Fisheries Act which will make it illegal to feed, touch, swim or interact with marine mammals

  • Mar. 30, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Almost every saltwater dock that has fish cleaning stations will have seals swimming about seeking some tidbits. People love to see those big eyes staring back looking for a treat.

Thing is, seals have become accustomed to being fed by humans and they have come to depend on these handouts.

Amendments are being made to the Fisheries Act which will make it illegal to feed, touch, swim or interact with marine mammals. These marine mammals include harbour seals.

Elden Smith, who runs Jock’s Dock, is used to seeing the seals gather when the fishers come in. The salmon get cleaned and the leftovers get tossed into the water, but people are not supposed to feed the seals.

“People love seeing them and feeding them,” said Smith. “They are like squirrels in a park, everybody does it (feeding seals), especially charters.”

While throwing the odd scrap or two into the water seems pretty normal, it will soon be illegal, which doesn’t necessarily sit well with Smith.

He said if the seals get salmon scraps they are not going after the wild salmon, and there have been instances where harbour seals have gone after the hatchery fish and wiped out the release.

“There used to be a bounty of $50 a nose on hair fur seals and harbour seals,” he said. “That was way back when salmon were more plentiful.”

He did say there is a fine line between feeding and teasing the seals. People often like to cajole them onto docks, which could prove to be dangerous as a seal will bite or grab the hand that feeds them. Jock’s Dock has signs warning people not to feed seals as a result.

Smith thinks people are being over-regulated and there are too many seals, though in general, charter fishing operator Steve Arnett doesn’t think people should feed seals as they become reliant on it and they like the easy treat.

“People shouldn’t feed them, they are kind of cute at the dock. Let’s face it with any wild animal or mammal you are taking a chance. It’s nice to do it but in the end is it a good thing? A seal could do some damage to you – they have teeth,” Arnett said.

“The amendments are in process in Ottawa and we are still waiting,” said Paul Cottrell, Pacific marine mammal coordinator for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. “I’m hoping it comes through then it will be illegal to feed seals.”

He said one of the dangers of feeding seals is that they can become habituated to humans and can become aggressive. Such is the case of the little girl in West Vancouver who was pulled into the water by a seal. Luckily, said Cottrell, she had a lifejacket on.

He cautions people to be careful around marine wildlife and not let sea mammals become habituated to humans. Harbour seals are not a species at risk or endangered anywhere along Canada’s coast or in Europe.

 

Just Posted

Two volunteers work to sieve a sample of sand and ocean water through a filter, capturing any potential microplastics. (Courtesy of Ocean Diagnostics)
Victoria startup making waves in microplastics research

New products from Ocean Diagnostics will make research faster, more affordable

Willows Beach in Oak Bay. (Black Press Media file photo)
Seven days of sun set to shine on Greater Victoria

Special weather statement warns of higher than usual temperatures

Chef Trevor Randle leads a June 21 online cooking featuring recipes – beef zesty lettuce wraps, blueberry strudel and blueberry spritzer. (Courtesy We Heart Local BC)
Free online cooking course explores B.C. blueberries and beef

Chef Trevor Randle calls them the province’s most flavourful foods

Island Savings kick-starts the Equipped to Heal campaign with $120,000. (Courtesy Victoria Hospitals Foundation)
Latest Victoria Hospitals Foundation campaign targets $1M for mental health

Goal is to outfit new 19-bed unit at Eric Martin Pavilion

Shaelyn Sinnott of Oak Bay Volunteer Services delivers groceries for client Irene Kenny. The organization has kept up delivery of food and medication throughout all phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Oak Bay Volunteer Services)
Oak Bay volunteers keep critical services running

Duo drove between Oak Bay and Jubilee three days a week, twice a day during pandemic

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Most Read