Where in the world?

The candidate site Vancouver Island North, in British Columbia, Canada, encompasses all marine waters southeast of a line between Cape Sutil and Cape Caution and northwest of a line between Salmon Point and Atrevida Reef. It also includes all coastal islands within this region.

All year around, the diversity of wildlife that is seen within this candidate site is unparalleled. It is an important feeding, breeding, resting and socializing habitat for eight species of cetacean as well as a diverse range of other marine and terrestrial mammal, fish and bird species. The site is regularly visited by four species of whale: humpback, common minke, grey, and fin whale; two porpoise species: harbour and dall’s; and two species of dolphin: Pacific white-sided dolphin and killer whale.


Home to four populations of killer whales

There are four populations of genetically, morphologically and behaviourally distinct killer whales at the site – northern resident, southern resident, offshore and Bigg’s (transient). The site is known for being one of the most predictable places in the world to see killer whales and is famous for it’s ecological reserve that provides ‘rubbing beaches’ for the northern resident killer whales.

A 10,000 year historical association with marine mammals

For nearly half a century, whales have played a significant role in the development of community, conservation, commerce, policy, science and the arts. The site pre-dates all other killer whale focused marine ecotourism, with the first whale-watching off Vancouver Island North beginning in 1979. The industry has grown following responsible practices, with a range of companies operating from vessels, powerboats and kayaks. Cetaceans cultural importance dates back to over 10,000 years as the candidate site includes Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation territory, where connections to Max’inux or the killer whale remains important and continues to be expressed through art, song, dance and story telling.

“Watching the whales in a responsible manner, giving them lots of space, making sure they go about their natural behaviour; in the end that is going to provide a better experience for our guests and make whale watching here last for years and years and years.”

Andrew Jones, Owner at Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures

The birthplace for photographic studies on cetaceans

The site has an important part to play in the history of whale research and conservation. It is the first place in the world where whales were studied in the wild through photo identification and a remote acoustic network. The history of conservation efforts for cetaceans in the area is extensive, and includes the formation of the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve as a sanctuary to protect critical killer whale habitat. Conservation efforts also extend to the programs and policies that exist in the area. Vancouver Island North is home to the North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association (NIMMSA). NIMMSA acts as a cetacean-viewing conservation association that helps to regulate and enforce guidelines in the area in order to continually enhance the well-being of cetaceans at this site.

Together, industry, conservation groups, scientists and governments have worked together on cetacean-related issues off northern Vancouver Island for decades and continue to do so as they work towards full Whale Heritage Site status.