Rare visitor: Seal appears at fishing port in northern Taiwan

In what may be a historical first, a juvenile seal was spotted at a fishing port in New Taipei City yesterday, but swam away this morning, October 25, after divers dispatched by the animal protection department attempted to catch the animal.

Tourists visiting the Bitou Fishing Port in Ruifang District yesterday, Sunday, first spotted the seal swimming playfully in the harbor. At first it was speculated that the animal must be a Eurasian Otter, as seals have never been known to visit Taiwan.

seal swimming in fishing port
Unlikely that an actual seal would appear in Taiwan, witnesses speculated that it may be a Eurasian otter, which are found in Kinmen and Matsu Islands in the Taiwan Strait. Picture: Facebook.

However, late in the afternoon, the pup emerged from the water and lay resting on large slab floating among flotsam in one corner of the port, revealing that it was, indeed, a seal.

Witnesses reported the appearance of the seal to the New Taipei City Animal Protection Department. Considering the unlikelihood of a seal appearing naturally in the environs of sub-tropical Taiwan, animal protection personnel contacted the nearby Ocean World, suspecting that an animal may have escaped from there. However, Ocean World confirmed that no seals had gone missing from the theme park.

Seal at Bitou Fishing Port, Ruifang District, New Taipei City
The seal is seen sunbathing on a floating slab at Bitou Fishing Port, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan, October 24, 2021. Picture: New Taipei City Animal Protection Department.

Personnel from the animal protection department estimated that the seal, at around 60 centimeters long, was an unweaned juvenile, dependent on its mother for survival. It was then decided that an attempt to capture the animal would be made in the morning for the animal’s own proctection.

Divers dispatched this morning, Monday, October 25, attempted to corner the animal and catch it in a fishing net. However, the agile swimmer evaded efforts, and swam out of the fishing port into the open sea.

Interviews with fishermen who had observed the animal swimming and catching fish, along with expert opinion caused animal protection personnel to reconsider their opinion, and it was determined that the seal, while still a juvenile, was able to catch fish and survive on its own.

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