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Sea lion-versus-octopus battle filmed off B.C.’s south coast

Woman preparing to go for swim captures circle-of-life moment on video near Nanaimo
A still image taken from cellphone video footage shows a sea lion tossing an octopus in Stuart Channel south of Nanaimo on Thursday, Nov. 16. (Image courtesy Lindsay Bryant)

A woman witnessed the brutal side of nature in the waters south of Nanaimo last week.

Lindsay Bryant was getting ready to go for a swim in the ocean off the Cedar shoreline south of Nanaimo on Thursday, Nov. 16, at about 12:30 p.m., when she saw a sea lion behaving unusually in Stuart Channel about 100 metres offshore.

“I was getting ready to go for a swim, which I do several times a week there, and it’s not uncommon to see a sea lion eating fish – throwing them around a little bit,” Bryant said.

At first the sea lion’s behaviour caused her to suspect the animal might be in distress, possibly even caught in a net, or was ill, but it was only after Bryant picked up her cell phone and video recorded the activity that she realized what she had seen.

“It went on for about five minutes, or so, and I couldn’t quite tell from where I was, exactly what it was until I go home and sat down and looked at my video and zoomed in,” she said. “I was a little surprised to see that it was an octopus.”

Bryant said in the first few moments in the video it appears the octopus is putting up a fight and trying to grab onto the sea lion’s head.

“It looked like the octopus kind of had a hold on it. It was putting up a fight, for sure,” she said. “With all those legs I can’t imagine it would be an easy catch.”

In the video the sea lion can be seen thrashing with the octopus in its mouth and then tossing the animal before going after it and repeating the action. After a few moments the activity quieted down and the sea lion submerged.

“The sea lion sort of went under the water for a minute, things quieted down and then, maybe 10 or 15 second later, I saw it surface up the channel a little bit more so I’m assuming he had his lunch,” Bryant said.

She enjoys swimming in cold winter water of the channel, which she said has health benefits, and she participates in polar bear swims as well.

“It started as a New Year’s Day tradition with my sister and then we just started going more and more,” she said.

Bryant said she wished she had a better camera to record the event. Based on the size of the sea lion, which she said is one of the larger ones she’s seen in the area, she estimated the octopus was fairly large too.

“I’d never seen an octopus before – I had in an aquarium, but not in the wild…” she said. “I usually paddleboard out there, so I’m slightly glad I wasn’t out in the water with them.”

To view the video of the sea lion and octopus encounter, visit

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Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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