Written by: Emily Lytle

Walking down the beach near the Tlell River Mouth shows a sad scene: a humpback whale lays lifeless on the shore, its body distended and deteriorating. The Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) identified this whale as “Kayak”, a young female humpback who has been known to inhabit British Columbia’s waters since 2004.

Photo credit: Jags Brown

Photo credit: Jags Brown


As I reflect on this astonishingly large animal, looking so out of place on the beach, I can’t help but think of the thousands of kilometres this whale could have travelled in its relatively short lifetime, of all the beautiful vocalizations it might have made to others of its kind.

Humpbacks have made a remarkable recovery in British Columbia in recent years. However, they still face significant threats, such as, entanglement and ship strikes. And although Kayak’s cause of death remains unknown, her tragic fate nonetheless reminds us of the many natural and human-caused threats that whales, dolphins and porpoises face everyday, and the important actions that we can take as engaged citizens to help protect these At-Risk species.

Photo credit: Jags Brown

May 21st marks Endangered Species Day, and in the Pacific Northwest, we are fortunate to share coastal waters with many At-Risk whale, dolphin and porpoise species.

Here are 6 ways to celebrate Endangered Species Day:

  • 12 of the 23 species of whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles found in the waters of B.C are listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. Check out our website to learn more about the whale, dolphin and porpoise species found along our coast and the threats they face today.  

There are three populations of killer whales in B.C., but do you know which population is listed as endangered? 

Learn more about the whale species found in B.C. waters here.

 Learn more about threats here.

  • Report Injured, Stranded or Dead Marine Animals to the Marine Mammal Incident Reporting Hotline 

Call 1.800.465.4336   –   Radio VHF Channel 16 – or Email: [email protected] 

  • Download the WhaleReport App and Report Your Sightings

Report your sightings of whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles using our WhaleReport app. Sightings reported in real-time via WhaleReport are used to alert commercial mariners of nearby whales through the WhaleReport Alert System (WRAS), reducing the risk of vessel strikes and physical and acoustic disturbance to whales from large commercial vessels. Sightings data also contribute to our understanding of the abundance, distribution, and habitat risk for at-risk whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles. 

 WhaleReport is available on iOS and android devices. WhaleReport is also available as a webapp that can be accessed directly through your web browser on laptops, desktops and tablets.  

For more information on how to report your sightings, visit https://wildwhales.org/howto/ 

 Many people are surprised to learn that there are numerous great opportunities to observe marine wildlife from shore. Check out The Whale Trail to discover a network of land-based viewing sites along the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska

Take a look at an interactive map of viewing sights on B.C.’s coast.

Watch this video to learn more about the Whale Trail!  

  • Be Whale Wise, and if you See a Blow, Go Slow!

If you are out on the water, remember to give whales space! In Canada, the law is to stay 400 meters away from killer whales in Southern British Columbia coastal waters between Campbell River and just North of Ucluelet. Stay at least 200m away from killer whales in all other Canadian Pacific waters. For all other whales, dolphins and porpoises in B.C., stay at least 100m away or 200m away if they are resting or with a calf. Blows are a great indicator of whale presence; if you See a Blow, Go Slow! 

 Learn more  about the Be Whale Wise Guidelines.

 Check out the Marine Education & Research Society for more information 

  • Adopt a Killer Whale 

Help protect killer whales by symbolically adopting one or an entire killer whale family. Your donation will support research, conservation and public engagement activities that aim to address the many threats they face everyday. 

To adopt a killer whale or learn more visit www.killerwhale.org 




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