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Department of Conservation staff contacted Dunedin police after a couple of members of the public began harassing a sea lion at St Clair Beach yesterday.
Doc coastal Otago operations manager Craig Wilson said staff received a phone call about 12.50pm, from another member of the public who was concerned about the welfare of the sea lion.
"The caller indicated they had tried to intervene but the people became heated.
"Because of this, we contacted police to deal with any potential escalation in tension."
Mr Wilson said it was a reminder that at this time of year, there were many marine species on beaches, and sometimes in more unexpected places.
"Sea lions are a taonga, and we need to share the coast with them responsibly.
"That means giving them space and minimising disturbances."
He said New Zealand sea lions were one of the rarest sea lion species in the world.
"They're nationally critical and protected. It's an offence under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 to disturb, harass, harm, injure or kill a New Zealand sea lion.
"We have subsequently received further information about the incident and will assess where to next."
He said a ranger stayed in the area yesterday to keep an eye on the sea lion, and to ensure people were behaving appropriately.
A police spokeswoman said no charges were laid but a person had been spoken to in relation to the incident.