Locals and visitors are urged not to feed the West Coast's seals and sea lions.

Feeding sea lions leads to habituation in Ucluelet and Tofino

West Coast locals and visitors urged not to toss human food to oceanic animals.

‘Don’t feed the wildlife’ isn’t limited to land.

Irresponsible behaviours around West Coast harbours are habituating oceanic animals like seals and sea lions.

Ucluelet Aquarium curator Laura Griffith-Cochrane told the Westerly that feeding these animals comes with similar dangers associated with feeding bears and wolves.

“There’s a lot of sea lion feeding going on,” she said.

“Sea lions are super smart. If they start getting a regular food source that doesn’t require as much work, they will use that food source…If we continuously feed sea lions, they will begin to associate humans with food.”

She suggested this association causes sea lions to chase boats, which can lead to frustrations for fishers and fatal results for the animals.

“If you’re going fishing and you’re reeling in a beautiful big halibut or really nice spring salmon and there are a bunch of sea lions waiting to grab that fish, that’s going to be really frustrating for you,” she said.

“If we encourage sea lions to eat what we give them, they will follow boats and they will get hooked up in fishing gear, which leads to a very slow death for them.”

She added the large animals weigh roughly 300 kilograms and can wreak havoc on the human use areas they’re being lured towards.

“They’re very big and can create a lot of damage,” she said.

“If they start coming into harbours and hanging out on human docks they can really easily destroy those docks.”