(CBC) Port officials are lambasting the family of a young girl for “reckless behaviour” after she was dragged into the water by a sea lion off a dock at Steveston in Richmond, B.C.
Robert Kiesman, chair of the Steveston Harbour Authority, said there are several signs posted at the popular tourist destination warning people not to feed the sea mammals that frequent the area.
“You wouldn’t go up to a grizzly bear in the bush and hand him a ham sandwich, so you shouldn’t be handing a thousand-pound wild mammal in the water slices of bread,” Kiesman said.
“And you certainly shouldn’t be letting your little girl sit on the edge of the dock with her dress hanging down after the sea lion has already snapped at her once. Just totally reckless behaviour.”
Kiesman said that there are similar issues with people feeding marine mammals throughout B.C., including Prince Rupert, Comox and Victoria.
A Richmond resident captured dramatic video on Saturday showing the sea lion grabbing the young girl by the dress and dragging her into the water off the dock.
The harbour authority has posted more signs along the dock where the girl was attacked Saturday, Kiesman said, in addition to staff who regularly patrol the area throughout the day to deliver verbal warnings.
According to Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations, “no person shall disturb a marine mammal except when fishing.”
The signs at the Steveston docks say the maximum penalty for “disturbing” a marine mammal is $100,000.
“You can only spend so much time protecting people from their reckless behaviour,” said Kiesman. “We’ve now seen an example of why it’s illegal to do this and why it’s dangerous and frankly stupid to do this.”
The signs also warn that sea lion bites “can cause very serious infections that may lead to amputation of a limb or even death.”
Danielle Hyson, a senior marine mammal trainer at the Vancouver Aquarium, says if the girl has a puncture or broken skin from the incident, her family should call the aquarium.
That’s because bacteria in sea lions’ mouths can cause a specific infection, which Hyson said would need specific treatment. She said the aquarium could provide advice to a doctor about treatment.