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G Mazille Gulls with herring-web

Protecting Marine Birds and their ocean habitat

Marine Bird Program Coordinator – Dr. Caroline Fox


The highly productive waters and shores of British Columbia’s coast support an incredible diversity and density of marine life.  Vast numbers of marine birds use these areas for critical activities such as breeding, foraging, wintering and migration.  It is estimated that nearly 6 million individuals from 15 or so seabird species breed locally.  The coast is also a portion of the Pacific Flyway, a major corridor for millions of migratory birds traveling to and from breeding grounds in the Arctic and elsewhere in the continent. Long distance migrants that may breed elsewhere in the world, such as albatrosses and shearwaters, are found offshore in significant numbers.

What's at Stake Report Cover

Raincoast’s work: Protecting marine birds through science & advocacy

To address these knowledge gaps, Raincoast undertook extensive at-sea marine bird surveys between 2005  and 2008. We surveyed thousands of kilometers and amassed nearly 20,000 marine bird sightings with over 100,000 individuals counted in more than 70 species. Sighting maps for these species can be downloaded below.

Our survey area includes the waters of Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, Queen Charlotte Sound, Queen Charlotte Strait and a number of mainland inlets.  We are also analyzing these data to determine at-sea distribution and abundance.


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What’s at Stake? The cost of oil on British Columbia’s priceless coast

Download: What’s at Stake?

Marine Bird Surveys 2005-2008: Raw Sightings Information

Download: Marine Bird Survey


Conservation Concerns

Marine birds in the Queen Charlotte Basin, BC coast, waters of the Great Bear RainforestDespite their multitudes, many marine bird species on our coast are of great conservation concern. Some marine bird populations are known or are suspected to be experiencing population declines. Further, major knowledge gaps exist for marine birds at sea, particularly during seasons other than summer and for North and Central coast waters. The relative lack of information about marine birds at sea is a serious conservation concern as threats to marine birds are numerous, often interactive, and growing.

British Columbia’s marine birds face the following threats:

• chronic and catastrophic oil spills

Bonaparte's gull on a river in BC's Great Bear  Rainforest

• oil extraction and development

• food supply change

• fisheries conflict

• contaminants and pollutants

• marine debris

• introduced predators

• wind turbines

• habitat loss, degradation and disturbance

• climate change

What seabirds live on Canada’s Pacific coast?

Click here for a slideshow of common marine birds we encountered on our surveys.