Marine Mammals

The Great Bear Sea is one of the richest ocean environments in the world. This wild ocean has an abundance of marine life, including whales, porpoises, seals, sea lions, otters, and much more.

Best Times to See Marine Mammals


Humpback Whales

At around 15 metres long and 40 tonnes, Humpback Whales are the size of a large school bus.  

To view one of these incredible creatures in the wild is a privilege given that they were hunted in the waters of BC until the mid 1960’s.  They have made a comeback and we all celebrate this victory of resilience and recovery.

The migration path brings these mammals to our rich waters to feed during the summer and fall.  They then journey south to breed and calve.

Marine Education & Research Society

Sea Otters

There are approximately 6000 sea otters in BC inhabiting kelp forests, bays and coastal waters in the North Pacific Ocean. 

Sea otters were hunted to extinction, the current population are descendants of 89 Alaskan sea otters that were relocated to the west coast of Vancouver Island from 1969-1972.

Sea otters use their sense of touch to find food as they have poor underwater vision.  They eat up to 25% of their body weight every day.  Sea otters dine on their backs, using their stomachs as a table.

Vancouver Aquarium


There are 2 eco types of Orcas in our waters, Bigg’s or Transients and Northern Residents.

Bigg’s or Transient Orcas are marine mammal eating killer whales, feeding on seals, sea lions and small cetaceans.  They are stealth hunters travelling in smaller family groups.

Northern Resident Orcas are fish eating killer whales, using echolocation to find and capture salmon, their primary food.  This group travels in family groups known as pods and have been identified and researched in hopes of protecting these waters for generations to come.

North Coast Cetacean Society

Coastal First Nations Conservation Area

Dall's Porpoise

The fastest of all small cetaceans, these animals can swim up to 55km/h.  Dall’s porpoise are highly active, they will often zigzag around at great speed, just below the water surface.  They are known to approach boats to bow or stern ride if the speed suits their liking.

The body shape is very thick with a small head, with a colouration much like a killer whale.  They have an interesting ‘hump’ which is pronounced as they re enter the water, called a peduncle.

These porpoises are thought to have a diverse diet, feeding on schooling fishes such as herring, anchovy and mackerel. 

Coral Reef Discovery

Seals and Sea Lions (Pinnipeds)

Seals and sea lions, also known as pinnipeds, are a familiar sight in coastal waters off British Columbia. These mammals lead partly a terrestrial and partly a marine existence. Their streamlined bodies, specialized flippers and insulating layer of blubber allow them to travel and forage at sea with ease.

However, unlike dolphins, porpoises and whales, pinnipeds require land to bear and suckle their young and to rest.

Marine Mammal Research Unit