Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)



  • BC: Blue – S3 (2006)
  • COSEWIC: Special Concern
  • SARA: Special Concern (2005)
  • Global: Apparently Secure (2016)


Harbour porpoises can range up to 2 m in length, therefore making them the smallest cetacean in British Columbia. They are toothed whales that feed on a variety of prey, including fishes such as herring, walleye pollock, and eulachon. They have also been known to feed on squid. Harbour porpoises typically travel in groups of 2 to 5 individuals, but may aggregate in larger groups when prey is abundant. Identification of harbour porpoises is fairly easy; however, their small dorsal fin and discrete emerging behaviour makes spotting them challenge.


In British Columbia, harbour porpoises are most likely to be found in shallow waters (<150 m depth) where prey density is typically highest.


Harbour porpoises are found in the colder oceans of the northern hemisphere. They are common year-round in coastal areas between central California and southern Alaska.


Harbour porpoises are non-migratory, ,and as a result are constantly exposed to a number of human related threats such as ocean noise, entanglement in fishing gear, ship strikes, and coastal development.

Galiano Status

Harbour porpoises are regularly sighted in the waters around Galiano Island.

Photo Credit

Blake Ross and Sidonio Paes

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