Photo: Remembering Canada's Forgotten Ocean

From the book Beneath Cold Seas: the Underwater Wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, © 2011, text and photography by David Hall. 1

By Panos Grames, Communications Specialist

"From Sea to Sea to Sea." It's an oft-quoted expression, usually spoken with beaming pride for Canada's triple oceanic borders: Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific. But how often do we really think about what was actually happening under the waves off Canada's West Coast?

This blog is dedicated to bringing Canada's Forgotten Ocean—the Pacific— back into our national consciousness. Join us as we chronicle the incredibly rich underwater ecology of Canada's Pacific North Coast week by week through science, stories, history and images.

If you live on the coast, or know about the ecology of the Pacific Ocean, we welcome contributions and comments. So please write to us at or comment on this blog to help chronicle and celebrate a year in the life of the Pacific Ocean.

Sign up for our newsletter

Canada's Pacific coastal waters are home to over 3 million nesting sea birds, over 400 species of fish, 29 species of marine mammal, and recently discovered 10,000-year-old glass sponge colonies. Yet, these impressive numbers represent only a glimpse of what this rich ecosystem has to offer.

Eulachon.jpgA friend of mine has a more colourful expression of the inter-relationship of marine life on this coastline. As a commercial fisher, he has witnessed how at the same time every year, oolichan, a rich fatty fish central to coastal First Nations culture, show up along the coast. Soon after their arrival, sea lions come to gorge on these oily fish. Orcas follow soon after, where they circle the gorged and beached sea lions, waiting for a high tide to pull the immobilized sea lions into the water. This cycle of life and death repeats itself at the same time and place, year after year.

Throw in humpback and blue whales swallowing enormous masses of plankton, sea otters diving for urchins, and those three-million seabirds feasting on millions of fish alongside pods of dolphins and porpoises. Then you start to get a glimpse of the vast web of interconnected and abundant life that exists here.

What's happening today

January 26, 2012— Haida Gwaii.

Thumbnail image for pacific_herring.jpg A friend of the David Suzuki Foundation in Skidegate, Haida Gwaii reports that herring are beginning to arrive along the shores of Haida Gwaii, in anticipation of spawning later this spring. Herring feed on plankton, and are an important foundation for many in the food chain, including salmon and humans. Halibut are now following herring into coastal waters. The fascinating Steelhead — a trout that lives most of its life in the ocean and is highly prized by sports fishers —- are returning to their rivers of origin, in preparation for their own spawning season this spring. Steelhead can live for up to nine years.

steelhead trout

1 Published in 2011 by David Suzuki Foundation and Greystone Books: an imprint of D&M Publishers, and University of Washington Press. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

January 26, 2012

Read more

Post a comment

1 Comment

Jan 27, 2012
9:42 AM

Its great to see that the herring is returning considering it was dangerously sitting on the 'extinction list'.

I totally love the Pacific Ocean because this is where I was born and raised! I was invited years back by a relative who lives in Alberta to give Alberta a try! But being an 'Ocean boy!', I didn't waste much time ( no brainer! ) to decide that I didn't want to leave my home!

Thank you for sharing educational material, Mr. David Suzuki! Keep up the great work!

Harold Tolmie Bunaby, BC

The David Suzuki Foundation does not necessarily endorse the comments or views posted within this forum. All contributors acknowledge DSF's right to remove product/service endorsements and refuse publication of comments deemed to be offensive or that contravene our operating principles as a charitable organization. Please note that all comments are pre-moderated. Privacy Policy »