Defining and defending marine mammal habitat

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.

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

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

Chinook salmon swimming in a river.

You cannot ‘offset’ extinction

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Globally, only 15.5% of the world’s coastal regions remain ecologically intact. In British Columbia, the Fraser River Estuary has already lost 85% of its floodplain habitat and over 100 species that live there are at risk of extinction. Now, they face another threat. 
Lance Barrett-Lennard on a cloudy day.

Meet Lance Barrett-Lennard, Senior Research Scientist and Co-Director of Raincoast’s new Cetacean Research Program

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Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard is a renowned cetacean researcher who served as a research scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada before starting as senior research scientist and director of the Marine Mammal Research Program at the Coastal Ocean Research Institute (Ocean Wise Conservation Association) in 2001. One of his principal current projects is a study of…
Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

Take action for the Fraser River Estuary by March 15th

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The Government of Canada is currently requesting public comments to decide on whether the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 expansion project should go forward. Until March 15th, supporters like you can take action to protect the Fraser River Estuary. Please consider taking five minutes to submit a public comment. We have made it very easy for…
Killer whales surface in a small cluster on the coast of BC.

Dr. Peter S. Ross to lead a new water contaminants program

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There is an urgent need for a more comprehensive approach to monitoring water pollution in British Columbia. For these reasons, and more, we are excited to announce that Dr. Ross is leading the new Healthy Waters Program at Raincoast. He will bring new focus, and new reach, to our efforts to safeguard salmon, whales, and people.