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October 27, 2023

Endangered Ocean Animals in Canada: A Call to Protect Marine Wildlife

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Canada is known for its unique landscapes, from rolling hills and mountains to rivers, lakes and ocean. With such a variety of ecosystems, it comes as no surprise that there are many species that call Canada’s oceans home.  

However, because of the combined impact of climate change and other human activities like fishing, shipping and oil and gas development, some species’ existence are now at risk. According to a 2022 Environment and Climate Change Canada report, more than 2,000 animal species in Canada are a high risk of extinction.   

Species are designated as “endangered” when population levels become so low that experts are concerned they will go extinct if nothing is done to protect them. They are then listed under the Endangered Species Act, where certain protections to their habitat and recovery strategies must be made by law.  

Here are a few of the marine species that are listed as endangered in Canada: 

North Atlantic Right Whale 

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, NOAA Research Permit # 665-1652

North Atlantic right whales are designated as “critically endangered,” and are one of the most endangered species in the world. They were devastated by whaling in the 19th century, which is likely how they got their name – for being the “right” whale to hunt. In the 1990s, these whales hit a population low in the 200s, and since then have started making a fragile recovery. Today there are only around 364 remaining. 

Loggerhead Sea Turtle 

Juan Cuetos

Loggerhead sea turtles are a captivating marine species found in Canadian waters, particularly along the Atlantic Coast. These endangered sea turtles, recognized for their distinctive reddish-brown shells and powerful flippers, are facing considerable challenges. Climate change and habitat loss pose serious threats to loggerhead populations. Additionally, they are susceptible to entanglement in fishing gear, which can result in serious injuries or even death.  

Southern Resident Killer Whale 

Sydney Cross

The Southern Resident killer whales are a critically endangered population of orcas that inhabit the waters of the Pacific Northwest. These marine mammals, known for their striking black and white markings and complex social structures, face severe threats to their survival. Their population has dwindled over the years due to several key factors, including a decline in their primary prey, Chinook salmon, which is attributed to habitat destruction, overfishing and dam construction.  

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 

Keith Ellenbogen

The Atlantic bluefin tuna is a unique and highly migratory species. They travel the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean and are designated as endangered. These remarkable giants of the ocean are under significant threat, primarily due to overfishing. These magnificent fish, known for their speed and strength, have seen their numbers dwindle. 

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, taken under NOAA research permit #15488

The marine animals that call the oceans along Canada’s coastline home face many challenges such as ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, plastic pollution, habitat loss and more. Oceana Canada works to address many of these challenges so that marine life can be abundant and thrive for generations to come.  

Join Oceana Canada’s Wavemakers, a group of people dedicated to making a difference for our oceans >>