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A Tradition Of Excellence In
Cetacean Research

The Vancouver Aquarium’s whale and dolphin research program is widely known and respected around the world. Since 1956, Vancouver Aquarium researchers have been conducting original studies of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) in the wild and in captivity in order to advance our knowledge necessary to enhance environmental conservation. Much of our research would be impossible to perform in the wild and there are few opportunities for researchers, in academic or government research departments, to access captive cetaceans. We are in a unique position to study and observe aquatic life.

Vancouver Aquarium is a not-for-profit marine science centre. Our 1,500 staff and volunteers are deeply committed to protecting our oceans. We wanted to highlight our commitments to ocean conservation, our animal care practices and our amazing people who work hard every day to conserve our natural world. 
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Killer Whale Photo: Lance Barrett-Lennard

Cetacean Research

 
Killer Whale Research icon

Killer Whale Research

The Vancouver Aquarium has been running the world's longest continuous study of killer whales, which includes photo identification, acoustic and DNA analysis. Our groundbreaking killer whale research is focused in three areas: ecology (how do they interact with other species?), social structure (who do they live with, who do they mate with, who are they related to?), and conservation (how are they doing, what threats do they face?)

Beluga Research icon

Beluga Research

Researching beluga whales in the Arctic Ocean is difficult, expensive and time-consuming. The Vancouver Aquarium, on the other hand, provides a place where researchers can work in a steady environment with captive whales, allowing them to study challenging topics like behaviour in greater detail.

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Dolphin Research

The two Pacific white-sided dolphins at the Vancouver Aquarium are rescued animals that are now serious research assistants. They’re helping researchers understand how they use their sonar (echolocation) to locate objects in the water. The discoveries from this study may one day help support dolphin-friendly fishing practices that will prevent dolphins from becoming entangled in nets in the future. This is an important issue, as in the wild each year over 300,000 cetaceans die as unintended bycatch after becoming entangled in fishing gear. 

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Porpoise Research

The release of the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phoceona) Levi in the fall of 2013 was the result of on-site veterinary expertise and over 4,000 hours of dedicated care logged by staff and volunteers. But we couldn’t have done it without the hands-on skills gained through previous work with rescued porpoises Jack and Daisy. Jack and Daisy are a great example of how cetacean captivity has directly resulted in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of a wild cetacean. 

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History of Killer Whales at the Aquarium

As long as humans have gone to the sea in boats they have been fascinated by whales. They have feared them, revered them, pursued them, loved them, hated them—about the only thing they haven’t done is been bored by them. Learn about how the Vancouver Aquarium acquired its first killer whale in 1964 and about how she, and the whales we had subsequently, fundamentally changed public attitudes towards the species.

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B.C. Cetacean Sighting Network

The B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network is a conservation and research collaboration between the Vancouver Aquarium and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). We collect sightings of whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles to better understand these populations in the wild.

Vancouver Aquarium Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program icon

Vancouver Aquarium Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program

By adopting a killer whale and becoming a member of the Vancouver Aquarium Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program, you'll directly support research on wild killer whales. Continuing research will lead to a better understanding of the whales, their place in the ocean ecosystem and the conservation measures necessary to protect them.

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