A leopard seal attacked three spearfishermen and the NSRI is cautioning the public around sea animals, especially seals. Pictured here is a young leopard seal that was spotted on the beach at Misty Cliffs. File Photo: Luke Kruyt
A leopard seal attacked three spearfishermen and the NSRI is cautioning the public around sea animals, especially seals. Pictured here is a young leopard seal that was spotted on the beach at Misty Cliffs. File Photo: Luke Kruyt

NSRI appeals for public caution around sea animals, especially seals following an attack

By Robin-Lee Francke Time of article published Sep 28, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) is appealing to spearfishermen, divers, paddlers, bathers and surfers to be cautious around seals and in particular around leopard seals.

The NSRI said on Sunday three spearfishermen Jerome Petersen, 50, from Stellenbosch, Josua Joubert, 40, from Bloubergstrand and Cameron Vannithing, 24, from Strand, encountered an aggressive, believed to be leopard seal, while spearfishing in False Bay.

The men recounted their ordeal to the NSRI where they stated they had to fight for their lives as the seal appeared to be targeting Petersen.

According to the men, they were about 400 metres off-shore between Spaniard Rock and Caravan Reef, near Millers Point, where they reached a reef to begin spearfishing when Petersen who dived to the sea bed was bitten on the leg by the seal. The attacks on Petersen were relentless and the seal continued bumping and biting at the men while they desperately tried to get back to shore for safety.

The aggressive seal broe its flippers, disarming them of their spearguns and caused serious bites, puncture wounds, scrapes, bruising and soft tissue injuries.

The men said they fought with the seal for about half an hour before finally reaching the shoreline. They were extremely exhausted and baffled by what had transpired.

Members of the public who saw the commotion contacted the NSRI Simonstown crew along with the Cape Medical Response (CMR) who responded to the scene.

“On arrival on the scene they were fortunately out the water and out of danger. They were treated by CMR paramedics for injuries and NSRI recovered some of their equipment which was still floating out at sea.

“Jerome and Josua are both Brazilian Jijitsu instructions in Somerset West and Cameron is a City of Cape Town Municipal lifeguard and a rescue swimmer with the EMS/AMS Skymed rescue helicopter. “All are veteran spear fishermen,” the NSRI said.

According to the organisation, a 5 millimeter wetsuit is arguably what saved Petersen from fatal injuries.

It said it is unknown what caused the aggressive encounter but marine scientists have said that leopard seals are unknown to be dangerous.

“Marine authorities appeal to the public to be cautious around sea animals in general.

“City of Cape Town authorities will monitor the situation in that area following this incident,” the NSRI added.

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