Cetaceans and Sea Turtles of BC

British Columbia’s waters are home to numerous species of whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles. From our rugged west coast to our sheltered inlets and island archipelagos, our marine habitat supports a rich diversity of invertebrates, fish, sea birds, sea turtles and marine mammals.

Many species of cetaceans spend most or all of their time in B.C. waters, including killer whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, Dall’s porpoises, harbour porpoises, and minke whales. Others, like humpback whales, grey whales and fin whales, migrate through our coastal waterways in the summer, sometimes staying well into the winter months. Offshore, the deep waters of the North Pacific Ocean support many other species, such as sperm whales, blue whales, oceanic dolphins and beaked whales.

Leatherback sea turtles migrate across the Pacific Ocean to our coasts every summer to feast on blooms of lion’s mane jellies and moon jellies. Other sea turtles are less common on our coasts, but some occasionally stray into our cooler waters, and we expect to see more sea turtles as the world’s oceans become warmer.

For help determining which species you may have encountered, see our Identifying Species page.

Species identification and natural history of cetaceans and sea turtles of B.C.:

Toothed whales Baleen whales
Killer whale Humpback whale
Dall’s porpoise Grey whale
Harbour porpoise Minke whale
Pacific white-sided dolphin Blue whale
Sperm whale Fin whale
False killer whale Sei whale
Northern right whale dolphin Northern right whale
Risso’s dolphin
Common dolphin Sea turtles
Baird’s beaked whale Leatherback sea turtle
Cuvier’s beaked whale Green sea turtle
Stejneger’s beaked whale Loggerhead sea turtle
Hubb’s beaked whale Olive ridley sea turtle
Short-finned pilot whale
Dwarf sperm whale
Striped dolphin
Humpback whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins feeding on herring off Egg Island, B.C.
Alana Phillips
Humpback whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins feeding on herring off Egg Island, B.C.