The Salish Sea is a recent name change to the coastal waters near Vancouver and Seattle. These waters historically held whales, seals and sea lions that were hunted or persecuted. A change in attitude brought about a change in how we viewed these animals and slowly they began to respond. Harbor seals were among the first to bounce back. Current estimates put their numbers along the BC coast at about 150,000 animals. Sea lions also started to become more numerous and not too long ago, elephant seals began to breed on Race Rocks near Victoria. Humpback whales are now a regular occurrence in parts of the Salish Sea and gray whales are showing up in places where they were seldom seen, such as Vancouver Harbour. Larry Pynn, journalist for the Vancouver Sun, summarized the recovery of many of these species in todays’s (April 14) edition.
The return of marine mammals to coastal waters is what the Pacific WildLife Foundation has been pointing out for a few years as a good news story. We have worked for a long time on some of these species documenting the individuals return over the years. Our records date back over three decades. Nevertheless, we are humbled by the fact that we can not say definitively why the recovery took place, although we have some ideas. The mere abundance of these animals underscores how little we really understand about the ecology of the ocean and why we need to carry on conducting objective research.