An elephant seal moulting at Gonzales Beach is been harassed by the public. (Keri Coles/Oak Bay News)

An elephant seal moulting at Gonzales Beach is been harassed by the public. (Keri Coles/Oak Bay News)

VIDEO: Feds urge public to stop harassing seal moulting on B.C. beach

Anyone caught harassing a marine mammal can face fines or criminal charges

The elephant seal moulting on a Victoria beach has been harassed by the public, say officials.

“Sadly, we have seen an unacceptable level of harassment and general disrespect around the seal on Gonzales Beach,” said Leri Davies, media relations for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Fishery officer Mandy Ludlow and Gonzales Group volunteer Kerri Ward were at Gonzales Beach today (May 3) to remind people of the very real dangers of getting close to the seal, and the large fines and penalties that could be involved if they do.

Some of the harassment the seal has had to endure is large crowds standing within a foot of it, people ignoring the barrier, and children taunting and yelling at it.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada noted one instance in particular in which children approached the seal too close and taunted the animal by flapping their arms and barking at it. When asked to stop by someone on scene the parents of the children turned aggressively on this person, says Fisheries and Oceans. Police were called twice on Tuesday for two different incidents of harassment.

Harassing a marine mammal is illegal and fines or criminal charges can be laid.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada are warning the public to stay clear of the seal and be respectful. Signs of distress in the seal include being up on her front flippers, gaping her mouth and vocalizing. The elephant seal may look slow and harmless, but it is capable of moving very quickly and could be dangerous if it feels threatened.

The Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is monitoring the seal’s health daily.

RELATED: Elephant seal claims Gonzales Beach for its annual moulting


 

keri.coles@oakbaynews.com

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