Three spear fishermen have recounted their terrifying ordeal escaping from an ‘aggressive’ Leopard seal while spearfishing in False Bay. Following the harrowing incident in which the men found themselves fighting for their lives, the NSRI has appealed to everyone who visits the ocean – spear fishermen, divers, paddlers, bathers and surfers – to be cautious around seals, and in particular around Leopard seals. It’s believed that one of the men – Jerome Petersen (50) – was probably saved from fatal injuries by his 5 millimetre wetsuit.
The incident took place on Sunday 26 September. The three veteran spear fishermen also attribute their survival to their years of experience with the sea, their high fitness levels and the state of the art equipment that they had with them.
Jerome, from Stellenbosch, was with Josua Joubert, 40, from Bloubergstrand and Cameron Vannithing, 24, from Strand. The NSRI said they “encountered an aggressive, believed to be, Leopard seal,” while spearfishing about 400 metres off-shore, between Spaniard Rock and Caravan Reef, near to Millers Point.
The seal appeared to target Jerome when he dived off a reef to the sea bed. The seal bit him on his leg, and then continued to relentlessly bite and bump at all three spearfishermen while they desperately tried to get back to shore.
The NSRI says the seal snapped and broke off their flippers, disarmed them of their spearguns and caused serious bites, puncture wounds and soft tissue injuries, scrapes and bruising.
“They fought for over half an hour before finally reaching the shore exhausted and bewildered by what had transpired,” said the NSRI.
Beachgoers raised the alarm and NSRI Simon’s Town and CMR (Cape Medical Response) responded. The three men were treated by CMR paramedics for injuries and NSRI recovered some of their equipment which was still floating out at sea.
Jerome and Josua are both Brazilian Jijitsu instructors in Somerset West and Cameron is a City of Cape Town Municipal lifeguard and a rescue swimmer with the EMS/AMS Skymed rescue helicopter.
The NSRI said: “It remains unknown what caused the aggressive encounter but marine scientists have warned that Leopard seals are known to be dangerous and marine authorities appeal to the public to be cautious around sea animals in general.”
City of Cape Town authorities will monitor the situation in that area following this incident.