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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

MacDuffee laughs aboard a small boat on the Fraser River.

Misty MacDuffee explains why Southern Resident killer whales are threatened by industrialization of the Salish Sea

Misty MacDuffee joined Adam Stirling on CFAX 1070 to discuss the plight of the Southern Resident killer whales. Adam Stirling raises questions regarding the growing threat of oil tankers and shipping traffic…

Sockey salmon with bright red bodies swimming upstream in the Great Bear Rainforest.

BC government signals challenge for Trans Mountain pipeline on legal grounds

The BC government’s announcement to challenge the Trans Mountain pipeline is welcome news for BC’s coast. Raincoast, with its partners, is already challenging the NEB and federal government oil tanker and pipeline approval …

Aerial view of a humbpack whale.

Innovative new research advances marine conservation in BC’s coastal waters

Years of Raincoast surveying marine mammals combined with new mapping techniques provides new insight into areas for potential conservation priority in the waters adjacent to the Great Bear Rainforest…

An assortment of figures from the paper, Quantifying marine mammal hotspots in British Columbia, Canada

Research paper maps density patterns and hotspots of BC marine mammals

Building on Raincoast’s five years spent surveying marine mammals on the BC coast, a new approach to linking environmental conditions with marine mammal densities has identified hotspots of marine mammal biodiversity…

A humpback whale slips into the water near the

BC’s marine mammals vulnerable to oil spills – especially killer whales

BC’s marine mammals are at high risk from oil spill impacts. Our understanding of this has been deepened by our newly published research paper that developed a framework to assess the impact of oil spills on marine mammals…

Killer whales in a tight formation on the BC coast.

New Raincoast research paper examines the “what if” of oil spills

New research examines 21 marine mammal species present in BC waters and ranked them according to the potential for deleterious consequences in the event of an oil spill…

Whales eating close to the shore on the North Coast of the Great Bear Rainforest.

Oil Spills and marine mammals: development and application of a risk-based conceptual framework

Using BC as a case study, this paper develops a framework for examining risk to oil spills faced by marine mammals. We found that in BC, killer whales (residents and transients), sea otters, and Steller sea lions face the greatest risk of population level consequences, but that many BC marine mammals are at elevated risk…

Water splashes in every direct from an unseen killer whale

Our letter of support for the proposed whale protection zone on the west side of San Juan Island

Today we posted our comments on a petition to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States to establish a whale protection zone for Southern Resident killer whales…

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