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New study quantifies marine mammal hotspots in British Columbia

Sidney, BC – A new study by Raincoast Conservation Foundation scientists and academic partners published in the scientific journal Ecosphere identifies areas of the British Columbian coast intensively used by nine marine mammal species, including fin, humpback, and killer whales.

Described as “hotspots,” or regions with high densities and diversities of marine mammals, the authors identified areas of importance to multiple marine mammal species and potential candidate locations for conservation efforts. Of the nine species examined, seven are currently listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA); as such, information relating to their distributions in our coastal waters is of significant conservation value.

“In our study, seven of the nine marine mammal species are listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, meaning these species are at elevated risk of extinction. In order to protect these species, knowledge of their distributions and densities in coastal ecosystems is fundamentally important,” said co-author Dr. Caroline Fox, Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at Dalhousie University and Raincoast research scientist.

“Recognizing that ocean conditions are dynamic and favourable habitats for marine mammals change over time, our study presents the results of Raincoast’s primary research that will help inform decision makers and regulators as to the current distribution of endangered whales, seals, and sea lions – information that is essential for effectively protecting the habitats critical for survival of these species,” said co-author Dr. Paul Paquet, Raincoast senior scientist.

Canada has pledged to meet the internationally agreed upon Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which oblige Canada to protect 10% of coastal waters by 2020. With little more than 1% of Canadian coastal waters currently designated as marine protected areas (MPAs), rapid assessments of potential priority areas for protection are now underway. Key to those efforts is accurate, up-to-date information regarding wildlife, including information regarding the distributions and densities of marine mammals in Canada’s coastal waters. To aid in that process, this study and all marine mammal data have been made open access available online to interested organizations.

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