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Two killer whales swimming in the ocean

Defining and defending marine mammal habitat

Paul Paquet, Senior Scientist
Caroline Fox, Research Scientist
Misty MacDuffee, Biologist
Adrianne Jarvela Rosenberger, Marine Biologist

The coastal waters of British Columbia are home to over 20 species of marine mammals, including baleen and toothed whales, dolphins, porpoises sea lions, seals and sea otters. Most of these animals are long-lived and reproduce slowly, often with just one offspring at a time.

BC’s whales need protected waters

Until a few decades ago, commercial whaling severely depleted many of the blue whales, fin whales, humpbacks and minkes that inhabited our waters. Today, our image of whales has changed, and the global moratorium on whaling has given many of these species an opportunity to recover. Our observations suggest that more humpbacks and fin whales are returning to BC coastal waters.  Even blue whales, the world’s largest mammal hunted to near extinction, were documented in 2007 off the coast of BC.

Today, the greatest threat to marine mammals is still humans, but largely through our impacts on their habitat and food supply. In the coastal waters of British Columbia, such threats to cetaceans include:

  • dwindling food supply
  • underwater noise, sonar and seismic tests
  • ship strikes
  • entanglement in fishing nets and garbage
  • oil spills from shipping and proposed tanker traffic
  • toxins and pollution

Raincoast’s Work

Raincoast’s efforts to protect marine mammals include our Oil-Free Coast initiative and our efforts to stop both the Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain Expansion projects. Both projects will see a dramatic increase in tanker traffic through habitat critical to the survival of many species, including humpback, fin and resident killer whales. Raincoast is also a strong advocate of salmon for wildlife works to ensure an adequate supply of chinook salmon for resident killer whales.

The WHaLE Project

Ocean-going vessels pose a threat to large whales. In Canada, vessel strikes and underwater noise are conservation concerns for the many SARA-listed baleen whales.  Using new and emerging technologies (like underwater drones), we can acquire much-needed information and contribute to efforts to reduce vessel strike risk

Marine Surveys

After travelling 14,000 km of ocean trackline during our marine surveys, abundance and distribution estimates for the marine mammals of coastal BC have been produced

Protecting Southern Resident Killer Whales

Raincoast is working to improve the living conditions and recover southern resident killer whales.  This began in 2008 with a law suit filed to protect resident killer whale habitat.

Marine Mammal Papers →Marine Mammal Reports → 

Support our Marine Mammal Projects

Latest News


Science & conservation for an oil free coast – UVic

Join Raincoast and UVic’s Society of Geography Students (SOGs) to be informed and inspired by our legal and scientific efforts to keep our coast oil free…

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Time is running out for British Columbia’s killer whales

It has been 14 years since Southern Resident killer whales were listed as endangered. Today, less than 85 of these whales remain. Despite their legal obligation, the federal government has failed to take measures to recover these endangered whales…


Immediate action essential for Southern Resident killer whales

Raincoast releases video to encourage public comments on the killer whale action plan.
Public comment period ends August 14th…

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We can make a difference for killer whales

With your support, we can continue to do our utmost to protect Southern Resident killer whales, including going to court to stop Kinder Morgan’s pipeline and oil tanker project.

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Comment: National Energy Board is failing killer whales

Chris Genovali , Misty MacDuffee and Paul Paquet / Times Colonist
Last month, the NEB recommended approval of Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline and accompanying increase in oil-tanker traffic…

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Environmental groups launch court challenge over NEB’s Kinder Morgan report

Ecojustice lawyers, representing Living Oceans and Raincoast, have filed for a judicial review of the NEB’s report that recommended the federal Cabinet approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline…

Three orcas swim from right to left.

National Energy Board fails killer whales

The NEB’s approval of Kinder Morgan’s TMX jeopardizes the survival of BC’s endangered southern resident killer whales, increasing the probability that they will ultimately go extinct, asserted Raincoast…

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Coastal Revival: A five part mini-series

A new five-part documentary series, Coastal Revival, tells how First Nations, conservationists, researchers and ecotourism are combining to protect some of the BC’s most emblematic wildlife…