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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 → 

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Latest News

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…

Forest and Humpbacks drawn over a map of the Hecate Strait.

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…

Killer whales spyhop with a tanker in the background and population viability maps in the foreground.

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…

A family of meerkats stand together watching, while a young member opens their mouth and shows their tongue.

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 […]

J50/Scarlet and her mother, J16/Slick, travel toward the west side of San Juan Island, Washington.

Killer Whales versus Trans Mountain pipeline – decision time

We requested the court send this unlawful approval back to Cabinet with instructions that it must meet all of the legal requirements, which include addressing the risks to Southern Resident killer whales. The court ruling is due Thursday…

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