A day of fishing turned unusually memorable for a few Canadian anglers on Sunday when a seal, desperately attempting to elude a pod of killer whales, jumped aboard Greg Beldham’s boat.
Beldham and his friend were fishing for salmon June 24 in British Columbia’s Nanoose Bay. In the midst of the trip, they noticed that a pack of five killer whales were pursuing a harbor seal. The whales cornered the frightened seal and began smashing it against the side of Beldham’s boat in an attempt to finish it off, according to Nanaimo Daily News.
The account was relayed on BCTough.com, as an onlooker described the scene,
The pod of 5 transient whales began their assault on the poor seal (this seal likely has stolen many fish from us so I didn’t feel all that bad) while we watched, bobbing in the calm waters. They would repeatedly rocket towards the seal at full speed, often knocking the seal clear out of the water. The seal, in all this commotion spotted our boats and began to swim over to use us for cover. As he tried to get over to us the whales continued their assault on him with devastating power. We both killed the engines/sounders and watched in awe as the show went on.
As a last resort the seal unexpectedly hopped out of the water straight onto Beldham’s platform where the boat’s engines are mounted. The lucky seal was so worn out that it took its chances with the humans on the boat. Unlike the whales, Beldham didn’t have a taste for seals. But he did have a soft spot for it.
“The seal looked me right in the eyes when the whales were attacking and he looked so tired and worn out from the beating he was getting that I felt sorry for him,” Beldham recalled to Nanaimo Daily News. “When he finally made the decision to jump on the boat, I decided to take him to safer waters.”
Beldham gave the seal a ride to shallow waters off of nearby Mistaken Island. First he tried coaxing it off, then eventually he had to back the boat into five feet of water and force it off before it would budge. The men speculated that the seal wouldn’t survive because of all the injuries the whales had inflicted and as they were leaving, they spotted the orcas in hot pursuit of another seal. This time, the men didn’t want to inadvertently intervene in the action, so they quietly left the area.
This spring, there have been unusually large pods of killer whales spotted in close proximity to Nanaimo. It is estimated that there are approximately 250 dwelling in the Georgia Strait, much more than the 50 identified when major research into the species began in the 1970s. In contrast, the harbor seal, a killer whale’s favorite prey, has doubled in population throughout the same time period to about 52,000 today.