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

Two grizzly bears looking into the distance while standing in an estuary.

2021: Our impact so far

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We are already halfway through the year, and I wanted to share with you some of Raincoast’s achievements thus far. This progress relies on donors like you and the entire team at Raincoast sincerely appreciates your support. Here’s a snapshot of Raincoast’s efforts over the past six months.
Southern Resident killer whale at the surface of the water at sunset.

Southern Resident killer whales need your voice

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With the Canadian federal government set to decide on recovery measures for 2021, we have made it easy for you to send a letter to three federal ministers encouraging them to implement the strongest possible recovery measures to ensure the survival of Southern Resident killer whales.
Young woman wearing a mask looking out at the ocean while standing on a sail boat.

Join us for a webinar on conservation in action

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Join us Wednesday April 7 at 1pm Pacific for Coastal Insights as we look at key conservation issues facing wildlife and their habitat along BC’s coast. The lesson will also discuss how we can take action to protect and sustain the Salish Sea.
Misty MacDuffee in the Fraser Estuary

Federal Minister presses pause on Terminal 2

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In a six page letter (PDF) to the CEO of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, Canada’s minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, requested more information from the Port to assess the effectiveness of mitigation efforts in the proposed expansion of Terminal 2 on Roberts Bank. Wikinson’s letter conveyed the panel’s conclusion about likely adverse effects to fish, fish habitat and other at-risk species if Terminal 2 proceeds…
Killer whales swim by Saturna island

Terminal 2 Backgrounder: Impacts on Southern Resident killer whales

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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

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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…