A few Melburnians out exercising got sin-seal-y more than they bargained for last week when a seal was spotted frolicking in the Maribyrnong River.

Among them was Alicia Pavlis, who lives right by the waterway in Melbourne’s north-west.

“I grew up in Darwin so naturally my first thought when I saw something in the water was, ‘CROCODILE!’, but that’s completely illogical in Melbourne,” she tells Broadsheet. “So I thought it might be a dolphin. I absolutely did not expect to see a seal.”

Pavlis says the cute little critter breached a handful of times and flapped around while devouring a large fish. “Once he finished eating his fish, he shot off down the river towards Port Melbourne. I think the whole thing lasted around 20 minutes.”

Needless to say, the showmanship has Pavlis’s seal of approval. “It almost felt like he knew he had an audience and was putting on a show for us,” she says.

While suburban seal sightings might seem like a rarity, Melbourne-based environmental scientist Leah Wheatley says it’s “common for seals to use Melbourne’s rivers … to access food”. (Though we have to wonder if this one strayed more than five kilometres from home on its fish-finding mission.)

If you do come across a seal, Wheatley has some advice. “We ask you to keep your distance,” she says. “Maintain a minimum of 30 metres between you and the seal, and even more if you’re walking your dog.”

“Please do not feed it, as seals can quickly become dependent on humans for food and, in some situations, aggressive.”

You can read Pavlis’s blog post about her encounter and watch the video here. If you see an injured or distressed marine animal, call the Marine Response Unit on 1300 245 678.