TWO men from Queensland are being praised as heroes after rescuing two people at Rye beach who had been swept out to sea after an encounter with an aggressive seal.
The ordeal began on Thursday afternoon (9 March) when an elderly woman walked to the end of the pier but was unable to retrace her steps when a large seal blocked her path.
Witness Trish Williams said the seal appeared to act aggressively towards the woman, who jumped into the water fully clothed. As the tide began to pull the elderly woman further out, her husband, who had been watching closer to shore, also entered the water fully clothed to help.
Williams said both people continued to be pulled further out and quickly became exhausted and distressed.
“These two boys who could see what was happening from the shore jumped into action, running to their cars to get surfboards and paddling out to rescue the couple who were struggling to keep their heads above water,” she said.
“If it had not been for the boys, this would have been a very tragic ending.”
The two rescuers, Queenslanders Brandon Ash, 20, and 28-year-old Tas Fielding, have been travelling along the east coast and had stopped at Rye as part of their trip around Australia.
After the rescue, Ash said he and Fielding were still processing what had just happened, and were still in a bit of shock.
“By the time we got to them then lady was in quite a state of distress and her husband was barely able to hold her head above water, another five minutes and things would have ended very differently,” he said.
Ash said the seal had been in the water enjoying a swim minutes earlier, and didn’t seem fazed by people until it climbed the stairs to the pier.
“Once it was on land, it kind of became a bit aggressive and everything changed.”
The woman, believed to be in her 70s, was treated by paramedics and taken to Rosebud Hospital in a stable condition for observation.
The men, who are posting YouTube updates of their trip under the names Salty Wanderers and IntoTheUnknown, say they were thankful they were able to assist.
A spokesperson for the Conservation Regulator said Australian fur seals were common visitors to the Victorian coast and it was important that “everyone knows how to share the beach with them safely”.
“Wild animals are unpredictable and can become defensive if approached by humans. If a seal blocks your path, stay calm and find an alternative route or wait until the seal moves,” the spokesperson said.
“It is not recommended to enter the water as you could be putting yourself and others in danger.”
The spokesperson said the Conservation Regulator was aware of a fur seal near Rye and was working with other agencies to install warning signs at the pier.
“The public must follow all rules around seals, including no feeding and always maintaining a minimum distance on land of 30 metres between you and the seal, 50 metres if you’re walking your dog, and five metres on a jetty or pier.”
Anyone willfully injuring, disturbing, chasing or herding protected wildlife could be fined up $3698.
Sick, injured or distressed seal can be reported by calling 1300 245 678 or 136 186.
Anyone getting too close to seals can reported to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.