Some species of sea lion are readily trainable and are often a popular attraction at zoos and aquariums. The archetypal circus "seal" performing behaviors such as throwing and catching balls on its nose and clapping is almost always a sea lion.
Sea lions have been trained by the U.S. Navy's Marine Mammal Program, based in San Diego, to detain scuba divers.
Sea lion attacks on humans are rare. In a highly unusual attack in 2007 in Western Australia a sea lion leapt from the water and seriously mauled a 13-year old girl surfing behind a speedboat. The sea lion appeared to be preparing for a second attack when the girl was rescued. An Australian marine biologist opined the sea lion may have viewed the girl "like a rag doll toy" to be played with. In San Francisco where an increasingly large population of California sea lion crowds dock along San Francisco Bay, there have been incidents in recent years of swimmers being bitten on the leg by large aggressive males, possibly as a territorial act.
The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped the sea and its animals. They often depicted sea lions in their art.
Sea lions have also been reported to assist or save humans who show signs of distress in the open waters. In June of 2000, Kevin Hines leaped into the San Francisco bay and it was reported that he was saved by a sea lion that kept him afloat and breathing till the paramedics arrived.