Canada Begins Largest Marine Mammal Survey Conducted in Canadian Pacific

As part of its commitment to protecting whales and species at risk, the Government of Canada has just launched the single largest marine mammal survey ever conducted in Canadian Pacific waters.

A sperm whale fluke.

This first-of-its-kind survey to be conducted by DFO, taking place July 3 to September 6, 2018, will be aboard two Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) vessels, the CCGS John P. Tully and the CCGS Tanu and will cover the offshore waters within Canada's Exclusive Economic Zone and inshore areas.

The $1.3 million Pacific Region International Survey of Marine Megafauna will enable Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists to learn more about the population status, seasonal distribution and abundance of marine mammals; and to collect new information to help us better identify critical habitat for species listed at risk.

Speaking to a crowd at DFO's Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, BC, the Minister explained that the findings of the survey will enable scientists to better understand whale distribution, abundance, and habitat characteristics, and will help us to continue to protect the important marine life of the Pacific Ocean.


"The Pacific Region International Survey of Marine Megafauna is the most comprehensive marine mammal survey DFO has undertaken to date off Canada's Pacific coast. The information gathered from this first-ever survey will help the government continue to take tangible action towards protecting our marine mammals and species in most need."

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

"Biodiversity is a pillar of Canada's heritage, economy, and security.  Our government recognizes that we must learn more about the numbers and habits of marine species at risk if we are to protect them effectively. This ground-breaking survey is an unprecedented step toward achieving that goal in our Pacific waters."

The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence

Quick Facts

  • As part of its Budget 2016 investment of $197.1 million in ocean and freshwater sciences, the Government of Canada has dedicated $1.3 million to this large marine mammal survey.
  • Scientists will be surveying several species at risk, including blue whales, North Pacific right whales, fin whales, Sei whales, humpback whales, harbour porpoises, grey whales, killer whales, and loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles; as well as other species such as Dall's porpoises, Pacific white-sided dolphins, sperm whales, and several species of beaked whales.
  • An acoustic array will be used to complement visual observations, and will be able to detect rare and long-diving species, such as Sperm whale, beaked whales, and to help identify small marine mammals.
  • A Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat report will be published detailing the findings of the survey. 
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is also conducting a major marine mammal survey of American Pacific waters. The information collected from both surveys will give a more complete picture of marine mammal distribution in the Pacific Ocean.
  • DFO conducted a similar survey of marine mammals in Atlantic Canada in 2007 and 2016, and the Canadian Arctic 2013.