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.
Why Marine Mammals?
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 worlds 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 and pinnipeds include:
- dwindling food supply
- toxins and pollution
- underwater noise, sonar and seismic tests
- ship strikes
- entanglement in fishing nets and garbage
- oil spills from proposed tanker traffic
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.
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
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 Resident Killer Whales
Raincoast is working to improve the living conditions for southern resident killer whales. This began in 2008 with a law suit. Ecojustice, our lawyers on behalf of Raincoast and other NGOs, filed a lawsuit to protect resident killer whale habitat.
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Updated marine mammal distribution and abundance estimates for British Columbia
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