Photo: Marine mammals

(Credit: Asha Wareham)

Welcome to the marine mammals page of the 'I Am Fish' tour. These three guiding words, I am fish, appear simple. But they reflect an ancient and extraordinary web of biological activity that connects humans with the ocean.

I am marine mammal

The rich concentrations of zooplankton and small fish in the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) provide excellent feeding opportunities for marine mammals like humpback whales, which require about 1,500 kg of this food each day. Somewhere between 1,400 and 3,800 humpback whales use the waters of PNCIMA. Statistically speaking, it is likely that if we eat a fish from the PNCIMA it will be comprised of atoms that recently passed through the digestive tract of a marine mammal.

As populations of humpback whales slowly recover to their pre-exploitation abundance, these massive animals are becoming increasingly integral to the PNCIMA food web. Aside from humpback whales, there are several other marine mammal species commonly found in PNCIMA including: fin, minke, grey, and blue whale; three species of dolphin and porpoise, two species of sea lions, and elephant and harbour seals.

Why are marine mammals important to humans?

Not that long ago, large baleen whales were heavily harvested throughout the world for their valuable flesh, which was then rendered into various oils and meat for human consumption. Official records indicate that 5,638 humpback whales were processed at whaling stations on Canada's west coast between 1912 and 1967. Currently, marine mammals generate economic revenue as tourism operators capitalize on the aesthetic and intrinsic value we have placed on the ocean's warm blooded animals.

What can we do to protect them?

Maintaining the food sources, such as herring and krill are the most important steps to ensuring humpback whales continue to recover. All large whales are vulnerable to ship strikes. Proposed developments in PNCIMA will necessarily increase vessel traffic and the potential for collisions. Science-based management plans that consider whale migrations and feeding areas must be developed.

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