‘Oh my God!’ Underwater divers capture video of seal attacking octopus near Nanaimo

'Oh my God!' Underwater divers capture video of seal attacking octopus near Nanaimo
A screen capture of Maxime Veilleux's video showing a harbour seal battling it out with a Giant Pacific octopus in waters off Nanoose Bay, north of Nanaimo. Monday, Jan. 22, 2024.

Night divers exploring waters off Vancouver Island with a camera in hand were left stunned after witnessing a harbour seal attack a Giant Pacific octopus.

“Oh my God!” diver and biologist Maxime Veilleux is heard saying in the video as she comes across the encounter near Nanoose Bay, north of Nanaimo, on Monday.

At first, however, Veilleux and fellow divers didn’t realize what was happening before their eyes in the depths of the Strait of Georgia.

“We found this seal upside down,” said Veilleux in a voiceover added to the two-minute video, which was uploaded to her YouTube channel later that night.

“We thought he was feeding on some algae on a rock, but as we got closer, we saw this…”

That’s when an octopus appeared.

“The seal was attacking a Giant Pacific octopus. You could see it pulling on the octopus’ arm. Then the seal went up for some air and came back down,” said Veilleux in the voiceover. “Clearly, the octopus was tired, but when the seal came back down, it tried to escape and inked at him.”

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In an email to CHEK News, Veilleux said, “To my knowledge, this is the first time this has been captured on camera!” She went on to say she “felt really bad for the octopus, but I don’t think humans should interfere with nature.”

In the end, the seal “finally managed to rip one arm off,” added Veilleux. “The octopus swam away with seven remaining arms.”

Octopuses are known to regrow lost arms.

According to the Marine Mammal Research Unit, which is based out of the University of British Columbia, a harbour seal’s diet includes cephalopods (squid and octopus) as well as fish and crustaceans like shrimp and crabs.

Last November, CHEK News spoke with Andrew Trites, the research unit’s director, after a video of a sea lion battling it out with an octopus near Nanaimo went viral.

“It’s a battle between life and death,” said Trites at the time. “I’m pleased to hear that other people find this kind of event interesting.”

Just like for seals, octopuses are “one of those delicacies” for sea lions, too, noted Trites. But it’s a feast that’s not easy to obtain, he says, as the eight-legged animal is “going to be biting and trying to save its own life.” 

Marine wildlife encounters around the Island are frequently caught on camera.

Last August, for example, divers got an up-close look at a Pacific octopus at Victoria’s Ogden Point, and in December 2022, a video of an octopus in Alberni Inlet went viral.

READ ALSO: Nanaimo woman captures video of ‘life and death’ battle between sea lion, octopus

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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