A video has captured the terrifying moment a sea lion snatched a little girl from the edge of a pier and dragged her into the water.

The girl could be heard laughing and interacting with the creature moments before the incident, but the sea lion picked its moment when the girl briefly turned her back.

Just as all appeared calm, the sea lion leaped out of the water and wrapped its teeth around the girl's floral white dress before pulling her under water.

Screams could be heard in the confused moments of panic, with yells of "Oh my god" ringing out. But a fully dressed man quickly dives into the water and to the rescue.

He quickly grabs the girl and helps her back to safety – to the relief of by-standers.

Sighs of relief could then be heard as the girl was walked away and no one was injured in the incident.

The near-miss took place in Steveston Fisherman's Wharf in Richmond, on Canada's west coast.

Michael Fujiwara, who captured the video, told the Vancouver Sun: "I was just sitting by the dock and then this sea lion popped its head out of the water just in front of me. I just took out my cell phone and started filming.

"Originally, it looked like it was just going to be peaceful footage of a sea lion swimming in circles, putting on a show for the tourists at the wharf. But then it made its stunning heel turn."

He added: "The sea lion actually attracted a lot of attention from the visitors there, including the young girl.

"She and her family, I guess, they came, they started feeding the animal bread crumbs or whatever it was, and then I guess the animal got a little too comfortable."