top of page
While in your boat, please be cautious when around these animals
Cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises, including orcas)
  • Approach areas of known or suspected marine mammal activity with extreme caution.  Look in all directions before planning your approach or departure.

  • Reduce speed to less than 5 knots when within 400 meters/yards of the nearest animal. Avoid making any abrupt changes in speed or course.

  • Maintain at least 100 meters/yards from the nearest animal.

  • Always approach and depart animals from the side, moving in a direction parallel to the direction of the animals.  Avoid approaching from the front or behind.

  • Stay on the offshore side of the animals when travelling close to shore.

  • Remain at least 200 meters/yards offshore at all times.

  • Never position your vessel within the 400-meter/yard area in the path of the animals.  Keep the path of the animals clear.

  • If your vessel is unexpectedly within 100 meters/yards, stop immediately and allow the animals to pass.


Seals/sea lions/birds - when animals are on land
  • Maintain at least 100 meters/yards distance from any marine animals or birds.

  • Slow down and reduce your wake/wash and noise levels.

  • Pay attention and back away at the first sign of disturbance or agitation.

  • Be cautious and quiet when around haul-outs and bird colonies, especially during breeding, nesting and pupping seasons (generally May through September).

Local Marine Life

An abundance of marine life frequents the water in and around the Marina. If you are lucky you will see Orcas and/or Humback whales, and of course our ever present Harbour Seals.

Photo by Ken Balcomb, Executive Director of the Center for Whale Research »

Orcas/Killer Whales

The Pender Islands have the good fortune of being situated in the midst of the Salish Sea, a term used to describe a large inland sea comprised of the waters from Puget Sound and the Northwest Straits of Washington to the Strait of Georgia Strait up to Johnstone Strait.  These waters are home to several pods of orcas, or killer whales (Orcinus orca), and the frequent summer sightings of these graceful black and white creatures along Pender's shoreline create a flurry of excitement with island residents and visitors.


Orcas are actually large dolphins, or toothed whales (Odontoceti), and are members of the same Delphinid family as dolphins.  Where dolphins average 3 meters (10 ft) in length, however, male orcas can reach up to 9 m (30 ft) in length, and females to 8 m (26 ft).  At birth, orcas are about 2.5 m (7 to 8 ft) long and weigh about 400 pounds, with females growing up to about 4 tons, and males up to 6 tons.  Females are sexually mature in their teens and give birth to a single calf on average of once every five years, until senescence begins around age 40.  Orcas continue to grow until they reach their late twenties.


The Resident Pods of BC and Washington

The orcas found in southern BC and Washington are known as the "Southern Resident Community," or "J Clan," which are a separate community than the orcas that live in northern BC waters.  The Southern Residents are a large extended family, or clan, comprised of three pods that have been named the J, K, and L pods with 82 members as of July 2016.  The Northern Resident Community (A, G and R clans), which is usually observed in the Johnstone Strait area and northern British Columbia, is made up of about 16 pods containing 220 whales as of July 2005.  Families within each pod form subpods centred on older females that are usually grandmothers or great-grandmothers.  All offspring remain in close association with their mothers for life.  The orca is the only known wild mammal that maintains lifetime contact between mothers and offspring of both genders.

Harbour Seal

Source: Wikipedia

The harbour seal (Phoca vitulina), also known as the common seal, is a true seal found along temperate and Arctic marine coastlines of the Northern Hemisphere. The most widely distributed species of pinniped (walruses, eared seals, and true seals), they are found in coastal waters of the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Baltic and North Seas.

Harbor seals are brown, silvery white, tan, or gray, with distinctive V-shaped nostrils. An adult can attain a length of 1.85 meters (6.1 ft) and a mass of 132 kilograms (290 lb). Blubber under the seal's skin helps to maintain body temperature. Females outlive males (30–35 years versus 20–25 years). Harbor seals stick to familiar resting spots or haulout sites, generally rocky areas (although ice, sand and mud may also be used) where they are protected from adverse weather conditions and predation, near a foraging area. Males may fight over mates underwater and on land. Females bear a single pup after a nine-month gestation, which they care for alone. Pups can weigh up to 16 kg (35 lb) and are able to swim and dive within hours of birth. They develop quickly on their mothers' fat-rich milk and are weaned after four to six weeks.

From April through September, the Southern Resident pods tend to travel throughout the Salish Sea.  From October through June, J pod often continues its activities in the inland estuaries, however, it has not been determined where the K and L pods go.  Recently members of the K and L pods were sighted in lower Puget Sound in winter.  In winter of 2000, about 50 members of those pods were spotted in Monterey Bay, California feeding on salmon.  During winter months Salish Sea orcas are seen along the outer coasts of Washington and Vancouver Island, but it is not known how far into the open ocean they travel.  Orcas usually swim from 75 to 100 miles every 24 hours, and are capable of swimming at speeds of 30 mph.


Orca Links

Orca Network:  Contains information on orca whale movement on a daily basis; Includes sighting archives, news, etc.

Center for Whale Research:  43 years of studying the local whale population for the purpose of education and advocacy on behalf of the whales. Friday Harbor, WA

Whale Museum:  Promoting stewardship of whales and the Salish Sea ecosystem. Located in Friday Harbor, Washington

Vancouver Aquarium: Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Ctr, (604) 659-3474.


Georgia Strait Alliance: caring for our coastal waters

Washington Environmental Council: Working to restore the waters and shoreline of Puget Sound, including Orca habitat

bottom of page