Matt Kraemer posted on Facebook that he and his partner were diving for paua — a type of abalone — on Friday when they encountered a “particularly aggressive” sea lion with “lion-sized jaws.”
“It actually climbed out of the water and threatened to attack on the beach,” Kraemer, who lives in the South Island city of Dunedin, said in the Facebook post. “I had to stab it with a spear to defend my terrified dive buddy!
“This was no ordinary playful sea lion. I poked it lots of times with no effect, it needed a stab. It will live.”
Kraemer’s partner, Jo Kraemer, added in a Facebook comment on his post that she was “a bit scared to go back in now to be honest.”
“It was scary,” she said. “Matt was just defending me. He had been very tolerant up to that point.”
Kraemer wrote on Facebook that the stab wound, which was made in “self defense,” was about 8mm (a third of an inch) wide and 30mm (1.2 inches) deep. When reached by CNN, the couple declined to comment.
New Zealand Police said Friday’s incident was not under investigation.
New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) said it could not comment on Friday’s incident.
However, DOC biodiversity ranger Jim Fyfe said humans and sea lions tended to interpret each other’s behaviors differently, which could lead to “cross-species misunderstandings.”
“There’s a risk of imposing our own biases and fears when they’re not actually justified,” he told CNN in a statement. “Sea lions need space … they are not trying to attack humans, but want to protect their space.”
New Zealand Sea Lion Trust — a non-profit organization that promotes the conservation of the animals — said in a statement that it was “never OK to harm a sea lion because you’re scared.”
Whyte told CNN that sea lions are very inquisitive, and often use their mouths to explore divers’ bodies. She said that it was important for humans to learn how to interact with sea lions, and added that there were only about 300 of the creatures on mainland New Zealand.
The trust said people who encounter a sea lion in the water should ignore them and try to stay calm. “At the end of the day, you’re in their house,” the statement said.