SAN FRANCISCO—An investigation has been prompted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after a video was posted over the weekend showing an unidentified man, off Pier 39 harassing a colony of seals. NOAA became aware of the incident on Saturday, April 15. 

In the video, the man shotguns a beer, throws the can onto the ground and then backflips into the ocean. He swims back to the dock and begins to chase after the seals while waving his arms around. The person who was filming can be heard stating, “Bro, they’re freaking out, bro!” 

According to the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, it is illegal to harass or harm marine mammals and is punishable with fines and/or jail time.

Even though the video went viral and was viewed over a million times, it has received backlash from some San Francisco residents. “Banned from SF for life,” one comment read. “Animals can’t chill in peace without humans f—king it up,” another reader posted. 

“The sea lions took the piers… You can note how there are no boats there anymore. They had to leave because you are not allowed to chase them off. It is a very serious crime. Go rob a liquor store instead, you are likely to get off while this, this will send you to jail for a long time,” wrote schulzefromsf on Instagram. 

“I think this is the first time since I’ve been here that I’ve seen anything like this,” said Sue Muzzin, who has been Pier 39’s Vice President of Marketing for the past 13 years. “It’s really an egregious act of harassing the sea lions out there, and we’re working with the Marine Mammal Center to learn more about what happened.” 

Spokesperson for the Marine Mammal Center Giancarlo Rulli stated, “Although the details surrounding this incident are very limited, including when it took place, our team at the center immediately reported the video to NOAA Law Enforcement to investigate the matter due to the serious nature of this individual’s actions and will await the findings of their investigation.”

Rulli indicated that residents who witness harassment of marine wildlife are asked to call the NOAA Law Enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964.