02/16/2012 11:12 EST | Updated 04/17/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C. Sea Lion Tangled In Fishing Line

The plight of a California sea lion apparently injured by fishing line on the west coast of Vancouver Island is causing concern.

The sea lion has a deep cut on its neck where it looks like a metal line is digging into its flesh.

The animal was spotted in a group of other sea lions this week by Tofino wildlife photographer Wayne Barnes.

“I’m assuming that this is a commercial fisherman who had [caught] a salmon on a line and [the sea lion] came up from underneath, hit the salmon and became entwined and broke the line,” Barnes said.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans biologist Lisa Spaven said officials are reluctant to intervene for fear the animal will drown if they attempt to tranquilize it.

Marine mammals getting entangled in fishing gear is a too common a problem, Spaven said.

“It’s frustrating that this is an issue that we can’t seem to get a handle on,” she said. “There’s a lot of marine debris out there, there’s a lot of gear and these are very curious animals and if there’s something for them to get into, they will.”

Last summer two humpbacked whales were freed from fishing gear in separate incidents where human rescuers had intervened.

In early August 2011, staff from a whale-watching tour company in Tofino cut more than 100 metres of crab-trap line from one animal.

Later that month, the DFO teamed up with a First Nations band off the North Coast of the B.C. to cut free a humpback whale that had become ensnared in a 30-metre length of fishing net.