13-year-old bitten by sea lion at California beach

The sea lion was captured on camera lunging unprovoked toward Megan Pagnini, 13, and biting her leg.
4:27 | 06/21/19

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Transcript for 13-year-old bitten by sea lion at California beach
We turn to that frighteninging attack on a beach in central California caught on camera. A sea lion biting a 13-year-old girl and ABC's Adrienne Bankert joins us now with more. This is just incredible, Adrienne. Reporter: Yeah, I mean, terrifying for this little girl and her family. Good morning to you, too. It affects beachgoers or it could affect beachgoers but also could affect some of the foods you eat. This is the jaw-dropping moment when a sea lion attacks a young girl at a California beach. It was different than anything I've ever felt before. It was like something was stuck on me. Reporter: Watch again as the animal lunges toward 13-year-old Megan pagnini biting into her leg. Her friends watch helplessly. All I remember was I was about to jump and I looked down and I see this huge brown blob thing on my leg that's attacking me. Reporter: Megan was just standing in the surf. All I thought was just scream and try to get help because I didn't even know what was happening. My brain could barely even process it. Reporter: Game and wildlife officials say that adult female sea lion was acting aggressively even after the attack and tested positive for domoic acid poisoning, a toxin produced by algae and found in shellfish and small creatures. It can cause disorientation, brain damage, erratic and violent behavior. The results can be deadly. I would say the public should not get near mammals ever because they are -- they can be dangerous and can bite. Reporter: The marine mammal center it stems from global warming of our ocean, overfishing and fertilizer runoff increasing the amount of algae. Still officials say any attacks like this one are rare. There are many of thousands of surfers that use the water every day in California. There are many people that go in the water and this type of event is extremely unusual. Reporter: But the animals are powerful and can weigh over 600 pounds. Look at what happens here when a group gathered to see this sea lion in 2017. The sea lion pulling a little girl off the dock and into the water. Oh! Reporter: Officials now warn those who want a day at the beach to stay alert. They are dangerous and they are a wild animal and you can never predict what it will do. Always be careful around wildlife. There are sea lions behind us here and the California department of public health regularly monitors the coastline as well as commercial harvesters sampling shellfish like clams and mussels and scallops to test them for the same toxins that sea lion tested positive for. Becan hear them. If they weren't awake at home they are now. Let's bring in Ron Magill this he joins us live from Miami. I wanted to ask, obviously this toxin is somewhat rare. It's quite rare to see a sea lion react in this kind of way, isn't it? Very much so. Not a normal behavior at all but what's happened here, the domoic acid poisoning is a result of this algae bloom that happens usually after wet winters because when they found this, it's been studied for years and determined it does cause this type of aggressive behavior in these animals. A lot equate it to the same behavior in Rabe biscayne except it's a neurotoxin and a red flag to all of us. Granted these animals are eating a lot more shellfish than we do but certainly can get into our system also. How long does the toxin last? Is it dangerous to people as well. If you eat tremendous amounts of fish and shellfish, it can be easily washed out. They've been treated for years. Whenever we have the big wet winters that cause the algae blooms they found they can treat the animals and flush it out. Not like a Rabe biscayne virus that is fatal and cannot be treated. The good thing as you point out it is very rare but if you do see a sea liepelt acting erratically and doesn't even know and it approaches you, beware. There's no sea lion that can outrun a human being on land. Just turn and run the other way and you shouldn't have an issue That's good to know. On land. On land only. I won't try it in the water. Writing that one down. Coming up, new research about teens and their phones.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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