A Wilderness At Sea

Photo credit: Murray Foubister/Flickr

Photo credit: Murray Foubister/Flickr

Sometimes shrouded with mist, sometimes encased in snow, Haida Gwaii is enclosed by wild seas – the Hecate Strait and the North Pacific Ocean. Situated off the coast from Prince Rupert, Hecate Strait is shallow and wide, and has a high tendency for large swells and powerful winds.

The seas around Haida Gwaii are prone to sudden change and aren't much fun to be stuck in during stormy weather when on a boat or ferry. However, there are lots of creatures that live happily beneath the waves and can sometimes be seen jumping above them!

Marine mammals that live and/or travel in the local waters include:
•  Grey whales (Eschrichtius robustus)

•  Orca whales (Orcinus orca)

•  Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus)
•  Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae)

•  Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus)

•  Minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

•  Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus)

•  Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens)

•  Harbor, or common, porpoises (Phocoena phocoena)


•  Dall's porpoises (Phocoenoides dalli)
•  Northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus)
•  Harbor, or common, seals (Phoca vitulina)

•  Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris)

•  Californian sea lions (Zalophus californianus), and

•  Steller, or northern, sea lions (Eumetopias jubata).

Haida Gwaii is also home to other sea-going animals, from rare urchin-eating otters to millions of ancient murrellets. Many fish species can be found off the coast, including halibut, lingcod, rockfish, herring, red snapper and five types of salmon (chinook, coho, chum, pink and sockeye). 

Tsiin (salmon) is an important fish on the islands and is culturally significant to the Haida people. It's an integral part of their livelihood and is connected to the well-being of their community.

For the Haida, revering the salmon, herring, whales and seabirds that live on the coast is naturally part of who they are. Their culture is founded on a respect for nature that all of us need to learn from.

Angela Gnyp