skip to main content

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

Killer whales swim by Saturna island

Terminal 2 Backgrounder: Impacts on Southern Resident killer whales

The shipping expansion at the Deltaport terminal will place further stress on the Fraser estuary that has already lost more than 70% of its natural habitat. Raincoast is particularly concerned about the impacts from the terminal on Fraser Chinook salmon and Southern Resident killer whales…

Jess Housty, Misty MacDuffee and others on a panel about the book, Spirits of the Coast.

Spirits of the Coast – live event

Join us on July 22 for an unique evening bringing together contributors from the book, Spirits of the Coast. Hear from Jess Housty, Nikki Iyolo Sanchez, Misty MacDuffee and Eric Mazimpaka, as they discuss their own connection to killer whales…

Killer whales glide by in water, with a mountain and fog looming in the background, and a cover of the book, Spirits of the Coast, in the foreground.

A bond through salmon, language and grandmothers

The book was produced to accompany the Royal BC Museum’s 2020 feature exhibition Orcas: Our Shared Future which, due to the pandemic, is rescheduled to now open in May 2021…

A researcher puts a breath sampler in the water from a long pole while a killer whale swims in another frame.

Guide government action on Southern Resident killer whales before March 23

We have provided our answers to the survey questions to offer guidance if needed. Please complete it and share…

A tiny bird rests in the rigging of the vessel, Achiever.

Notes from the Great Bear

Umbrella species like the grizzly bear and apex predators such as the killer whale are a focus of Raincoast’s conservation efforts precisely because they are reliant on a broader range of species and processes, and a more complex system to which they contribute to and depend on…

Pint of Free Whaley, Killer Creamery ice cream.

Killer Creamery Partners with Raincoast to Protect Southern Resident Killer Whales

Killer Creamery, the healthy ice cream company, is partnering with Raincoast to raise funds for research and protection of Southern Resident killer whales, of which there are less than 80 remaining…

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…

J16 spy hops: Southern Resident killer whale.

Canada’s recovery measures for endangered killer whales a positive step

A coalition of six conservation groups commend the federal government’s new measures to support Southern Resident killer whale recovery. The measures are the boldest yet; greater whale-watching restrictions, expanded voluntary slow downs for international shipping and the creation of no-vessel zones in feeding areas.  However, important feeding areas protected from fishing are smaller than last year’s areas, allowing less protection for whales and more areas for fishing…