Harbour Seals

The harbour seal (Phoca vitulina), or common seal, is a true ‘ear less’ seal found along temperate and Arctic coastlines of the Northern Hemisphere. They are the most widely distributed of the pinniped family (walruses, eared seals, and true seals), they are found in coastal waters of the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and Victoria, BC’s inner harbour at Fisherman’s Wharf.

  • Harbour seals are brown, 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).
  • Females outlive males (30–35 years versus 20–25 years).
  • Harbour seals hang out in familiar resting spots or haul-out sites, generally rocky areas where they are protected from adverse weather conditions and predation, near a foraging area.
  • Females bear a single pup, which they care for alone.
  • Pups are able to swim and dive within hours of birth, developing quickly on their mothers’ fat-rich milk.
  • Blubber under their skins helps to maintain body temperature.
  • Harbour seals are food for Transient Killer Whales (Orca or Bigg’s Killer Whales)
  • We see these interesting ‘rock sausages’ on our whale watching & wild life tours regularly

River Otters

Otters are mammals of the weasel family. There are two distinct species of otters in BC: river otters (Lutra canadensis) and sea otters (Enhydra lutris).

  • River otters are sleek, usually weigh no more than 14 kg, and have a tail that is about 2/3 the length of their body.
  • They live in dens in riverbanks or shorelines and forage along the shore and in the water.
  • They prey upon the most readily accessible species. Fish is a favored food among the otters, but they also consume various amphibians, turtles, and crayfish.
  • The range of the North American river otter has been significantly reduced by habitat loss,
  • River otters are very susceptible to environmental pollution, which is a likely factor in the continued decline of their numbers.

Lions mane jellyfish

The lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata),  is the largest known species of jellyfish. Its range is confined to the cold waters of the Arctic, north Atlantic, and north Pacific Oceans.

  • The largest recorded example found, washed up on the shore of Massachusetts in 1870, had a body with a total diameter of 7 feet 6 inches (2.29 m) and tentacles over 120 feet (37 m) long.
  • While the lion’s mane jellyfish generally use their stinging tentacles to prey, there is one dangerous variable that works against them. Sea anemones can capture their tentacles, which then become hopelessly tangled, torn apart and consumed.
  • We typically see these jellyfish around Victoria and the Salish Sea mid August into late October.

Egg yolk jellyfish

Phacellophora camtschatica, known as the fried egg jellyfish or egg-yolk jellyfish, is a very large jellyfish, with a diameter up to 60 cm (2 ft) and sixteen clusters of tentacles, each up to 6 metres (20 ft) long. This cool-water species can be found in many parts of the world’s oceans.

  • It feeds mostly on smaller jellyfish and zooplankton, which become ensnared in the tentacles
  • the sting of this jellyfish is so weak, many small crustaceans, including larval crabs regularly ride on its top and even steal food from its arms and tentacles
  • The life cycle of this jellyfish is well known. It alternates between a benthic stage that is attached to rocks and piers that reproduces asexually and the planktonic stage that reproduces sexually in the water column; there are both males and females in the plankton.

Moon jellyfish

Aurelia aurita (also called the moon jelly) is a widely studied species.

  • The jellyfish is translucent & usually about 25–40 cm (10–16 in) in diameter, and can be recognized by its four horseshoe-shaped gonads, easily seen through the top of the bell.
  • It feeds by collecting medusae, plankton, and mollusks with its tentacles, and bringing them into its body for digestion.
  • It is capable of only limited motion, and drifts with the current, even when swimming.

Stickleback fish

The Gasterosteidae are a family of fish including the sticklebacks.  Although some authorities give the common name of the family as “sticklebacks and tube-snouts”.

  • An unusual feature of sticklebacks is that they have no scales, although some species have bony armour plates. They are related to pipefish and seahorses.
  • Sticklebacks are most commonly found in the ocean, but some can be found in freshwater.
  • The freshwater taxa were trapped in freshwater in Europe, Asia and North America after the ice age, and have evolved different features from the ocean variety.
  • Sticklebacks are carnivorous, feeding on small animals such as insects, crustaceans and fish larvae.
  • Sticklebacks are characterised by the presence of strong and clearly isolated spines in the dorsal fin.
  • Their maximum length is about 4 inches, but few of them are more than 3 inches long.
  • They mature sexually at a length of about 2 inches.
  • The males construct a nest from vegetation held together by secretions from their kidneys. The males then attract females to the nest. The female will lay their eggs inside the nest where the male can fertilize them. The male then guards the eggs until they hatch.


Herring are forage fish, mostly belonging to the family Clupeidae. They often move in large schools around fishing banks and near the coast.

  • The most abundant and commercially important species belong to the genus Clupea, found particularly in shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and the North Atlantic
  • Three species of Clupea are recognised, and provide about 90% of all herrings captured in fisheries. Most abundant of all is the Atlantic herring, providing over half of all herring capture.
  • Herring played a pivotal role in the history of marine fisheries in Europe,
  • These oily fish also have a long history as an important food fish, and are often salted, smoked, or pickled.
  • we see them usually in late summer and early fall season around Victoria, BC. The humpback whales will feed on the Herring as they come into the Salish Sea off the waterfront.

Kelp Perch

Brachyistius frenatus, the Kelp perch, is a species of surfperch native to the eastern Pacific Ocean from British Columbia, Canada to Baja California, Mexico where it is found in kelp forests down to a depth of about 30 metres (98 ft). This fish is also known to be a cleaner fish. This species can reach a length of 22 centimetres (8.7 in)

Sea Shiner Perch

The shiner perch (Cymatogaster aggregata) is a common surf perch found in estuaries, lagoons, and coastal streams along the Pacific coast from Alaska to Baja California. Female Shiner perches are deep-bodied with a dusky greenish back and silvery sides that have a pattern combining fine horizontal bars with three broad yellow vertical bars. Breeding males turn almost entirely black, the barred pattern being obscured by dark speckles. They are one of the most common fish in the bays and estuaries of their range, favoring beds of eelgrass, and often accumulating around piers as well. They feed on zooplankton such as copepods, but have been observed to bottom feed as well.


Pacific Salmon may be Chinook, Chum, Coho, Sockeye, or Pink salmon. The Atlantic Salmon is not native to the west coast of North America, but it is commonly raised in aquaculture operations. Pacific Salmon are part of the genus Oncorhynchus, which includes also includes Cutthroat and Steelhead Trout; these species are often collectively called salmonids.

  • The salmon is among the most revered of coastal animals, for its cultural and spiritual importance to First Nations, its world-famous tasty flesh, and its role in the historical economy of BC
  • The most common salmon in our local waters are Chum and Coho.
  • All Pacific salmon species are anadromous, meaning they spend most of their life in the ocean but migrate to fresh water to breed.
  • They therefore interact with several different ecosystems, and play important roles in terrestrial, freshwater and marine food webs.