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 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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…
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…
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…
Humpback whales, artistic cartography, for the coast
Watching these magnificent creatures work in unison to catch their meal was truly inspirational and became the idea behind my first Artistic Cartography piece for Raincoast. Listening to them, via the hydrophone that Captain Nick dropped over the side, still makes the hair on the back of neck stand on end and solidified the artistic idea that this hunting method had to be painted…
The National Energy Board and killer whales, on As It Happens
In this interview, Misty outlines that while oil spills remain a clear risk, the effects of increased vessel traffic, i.e. noise and disturbance, are a certainty.
Southern Resident killer whales are on the precipice
The federal government recently announced its refusal to issue an emergency order, despite the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans’ recommendation to do so. Although we commend the ministers for recommending an emergency order be used, we are deeply disappointed that Cabinet rejected what we believe to be the best available tool to recover these whales…
From meerkats to killer whales
For animal species that form social groups, living together can have a strong effect on individuals’ chances of survival and reproduction, and ultimately on how population sizes change over time. New work, led by myself in collaboration with a team of researchers from Canada, the UK, and Switzerland, combines theory and data to shed light […]