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Marine Bird Surveys

In 2005, Raincoast began 4 years of boat-based, systematic surveys of BC’s coastal waters to determine the at-sea abundance and distribution of marine birds. This work is part of our efforts to achieve long-term protection for maritime animals and their habitats.  Over 10,000 km of ocean trackline were surveyed between 2005 and 2008 collecting roughly 18,000 ‘sightings’ (totalling over 100,000 individual birds) in more than 70 species.

Published Analysis

In 2016, we published at-sea distribution and abundance results for BC marine birds, along with a risk assessment for chronic oil spills.

Fox, C.H., P.D. O’Hara, S. Bertazzon, K. Morgan, F.E. Underwood and P.C. Paquet. 2016. A preliminary spatial assessment of risk: Marine birds and chronic oil pollution on Canada’s Pacific coast.  Science of the Total Environment Volume 573, 15 December 2016, Pages 799–809

Download PDF until October 2016

Maps and Reports

The raw sightings data and maps can be viewed in the report Marine Bird Surveys 2005-2008 Raw Sightings Information.

Marine Bird Survey Report (PDF)

Bird surveys cover

This information was then used in the popular report, What’s at Stake: the Cost of Oil on BC’s Priceless Coast.

What’s at Stake Report (PDF)

What's at Stake Report Cover


Dr. Caroline Fox has also written a popular book At Sea with the Marine Birds of the Raincoast based on her experience as a marine bird biologist surveying the BC coast.

At Sea with the Marine Birds of the Raincoast

The poster below summarises the sightings and scientific methods behind Raincoast’s seabird data analysis.

Sightings and scientific methods behind Raincoast's seabird data analysis

slideshow of common marine birds we encountered on our surveys.

Latest News: Marine Birds

A Humpback whale fin is visible above the surface of the ocean.

Ecological legacy of coastal B.C. hangs in the balance

One hundred years ago, whaling largely extirpated humpback and fin whales from the inside waters of the B.C. coast. As the federal government looks to codify a 35-year moratorium on oil-tanker traffic into law, these whale populations are recovering and returning to their historic feeding grounds…

Maps of marine birds distributions and densities overlaid onto a tufted puffin.

Predictions from machine learning ensembles: marine bird distribution and density on Canada’s Pacific coast

In February of 2017, a team of researchers, including Raincoast senior scientist Dr. Paul Paquet, from five research facilities published their findings in Marine Ecology Progress Series: “Predictions from machine learning ensembles: Marine bird distribution and density on Canada’s Pacific coast”…

Coastal bird populations and Big Oil

Times Colonist: Raincoast studies helped put nails in the coffin of the Northern Gateway pipeline. Excerpt for the book “At sea with the marine birds of the Raincoast by Dr. Caroline Fox…

Marine Birds of the Raincoast by Caroline Fox

At Sea with the Marine Birds of the Raincoast

Released by Rocky Mountain Books, this nonfiction book shares the unique story of conservation scientist Dr. Caroline Fox as she surveys marine birds on BC’s coast, calling attention to the urgent conservation challenges faced by many of these birds…

Seagull flies low over the water touch their feet onto the orange sunset surface.

Marine birds and chronic oil pollution on Canada’s Pacific coast

Chronic oil pollution is a serious issue in BC. More oil enters the global marine environment from low-level human activities than catastrophic oil spills. Evidence also suggests that these chronic level spills collectively kill more birds than catastrophic spills…