Conservation Programs

Conservation of Cetaceans and Sea Turtles in B.C.

Of the 23 species of whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles in B.C. waters, 12 are listed under the Species at Risk Act as Endangered, Threatened or Special Concern. In addition, all cetacean and turtle species are subjected to similar pressures from threats to marine mammals and to their marine habitat.

There are numerous organizations that are working to conserve marine species and the marine environment in B.C. The B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network works closely with these groups, who all have a common goal of protecting ocean wildlife.

Vancouver Aquarium Programs

The mission of the Vancouver Aquarium is to conserve aquatic life through display and interpretation, education, research and direct action. Aquarium staff and Volunteers have been involved in the creation of Canada’s first no-take marine protected area, beach clean-ups, wetlands restorations, wildlife rescue and rehabilitations, and population surveys of marine mammals and intertidal fishes. Here are some of the key programs directly relating to cetaceans and sea turtles:

Marine Mammal Rescue and Rehabilitation Program

The Marine Mammal Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre assists injured and distressed marine mammals from the length of the British Columbia coastline.  Although harbour seal pups are the most commonly admitted patients, harbour porpoises, sea lions, and elephant seals have all been helped.  Along with DFO and numerous other organizations, MMR was one of the key team members in the successful relocation of killer whale A73 (“Springer“) in 2002.

Ocean Wise

The Ocean Wise symbol next to a menu or seafood item is the Vancouver Aquarium’s assurance of an ocean-friendly seafood choice.  With over 3,100 Ocean Wise partner locations across Canada, Ocean Wise makes it easy for consumers to make sustainable seafood choices that ensure the health of our oceans for generations to come.  Learn more at

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited, is a conservation initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium and WWF. It is about removing shoreline litter to help create healthy waters for everyone, including the wildlife and communities that depend on them. The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is designed to raise awareness and change attitudes about shoreline litter. By changing attitudes about litter, these aquatic habitats will be protected and preserved from future litter-related damage. Since 1994, over 1 million kg of shoreline litter has been removed from sensitive aquatic habitats across Canada.




Other Canadian Partners in Conservation and Stewardship

Parks Canada

Parks Canada is responsible for maintaining or restoring the ecological integrity of national parks.  In the coastal waters of B.C., there are three national parks: Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.  Parks Canada is also in the process of developing National Marine Conservation Areas that will be managed for sustainable use and contain smaller zones of high protection for marine species and habitats.  Park wardens and researchers also participate in monitoring programs and public education about cetacean species in B.C.

BC Parks

BC Parks is responsible for establishing and maintaining parks, ecological reserves and protected areas in British Columbia. Park wardens and researchers also participate in monitoring programs and public education about cetacean species in B.C. The Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve was established to provide a sanctuary for killer whales. The reserve protects key habitats for killer whales and prevents their harassment while at the same time provides unique opportunities for killer whale research. Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve also protects a pristine estuary and forested shorelines.

BC Marine Mammal Response Network

The BC Marine Mammal Response Network (BCMMRN) is a network of researchers, conservation groups and everyday people responding to reports of sick, injured, dead and disturbed marine mammals.  Almost half of British Columbia’s marine mammal and sea turtle populations are listed as Endangered, Threatened or Special Concern under the Species At Risk Act.  BCMMRN works to monitor and investigate threats like vessel strikes, entanglements, disturbance and disease throughout BC’s vast 27,000 km coastline.  Help us recover these populations by gaining a better understanding of the threats they face in our waters.

Please report sick, injured, dead or disturbed marine mammals & sea turtles: 1-800-465-4336.

You can also become a Primary Responder and help BCMMRN in your own community.  Your efforts may include taking photos and measurements of carcasses, or even assisting a live animal in distress.  Your help will allow us to collect valuable data that will not only assist individual animals but also help recover At Risk populations.

To find our more or get involved with BCMMRN, please contact:  Lisa Spaven, Marine Mammal Response Biologist,, (250) 756-7230


Straitwatch is a marine mammal monitoring and education program operated by Cetus Research & Conservation Society. Both in Johnstone Strait, off northeastern Vancouver Island, and in Haro Strait, off Victoria, Straitwatch monitors the activities around local marine mammals, especially killer whales, and provides boaters with information on local marine species and marine mammal viewing guidelines.

Robson Bight Warden Program

Since 1987, the Robson Bight Warden Program has been monitoring the behavior of whales in the presence and absence of vessels, and informing park visitors of the whale watching guidelines and no-entry policy of the reserve.  The Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve is a killer whale sanctuary located in Johnstone Strait, in which northern resident killer whales spend considerable amounts of time feeding on salmon and rubbing on the smooth pebble beach.  Both the Wardens and the Reserve help to promote conservation of marine mammals in the area.

Whale Interpretive Centre

Based in Telegraph Cove at the northern end of Vancouver Island, the objective of the Whale Interpretive Centre (WIC) is to increase awareness of the biology, habitat needs and threats to killer whales, fin whales, humpback whales and sea otters as well as other local marine mammals. This land-based interpretive centre in Telegraph Cove houses “The Bones Project” and numerous other exhibits.

Georgia Strait Alliance

Georgia Strait Alliance is the only citizens’ group focused on protecting the marine environment in and around the whole Strait of Georgia – Canada’s most at-risk natural environment, and the place where 70% of British Columbians live, work and play. We are committed to a future for our region that includes clean water and air, healthy wild salmon runs, rich marine life and natural areas, and sustainable communities.

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