You’re likely to see a harbour seal in the water any time you walk the Ogden Point breakwater. They are pretty tame and come close for a good look at you. The harbour seal is the common seal found around Victoria or Vancouver, the western counterpart to the harp seal in the east and the ringed seal in the north. They eat fish and cause some distress for people fishing for salmon from the breakwater. One time a seal was seen swimming along the harbour side of the breakwater with an octopus in its mouth. The pair in the photograph on the right were swirling around and chasing each other back and forth for several minutes – we supposed they were on a play date. At nearby Fisherman’s Wharf, seals will jump up to grab seafood scraps that one of the seafood stores sells, making for some interesting photos for tourists to take home.
California sea lions are also a common sight by the breakwater, especially in early spring when they are following the herring north. Sea lions expel air very loudly when they surface, like a whale, which is one way to distinguish their behaviour from that of a harp seal. Another difference is that harbour seals tend to bob in and out of the water, slipping inconspicuously below the surface of the water when they dive, whereas sea lions will arch into a dive so you can see the crest of their back. They’re also more likely to see a group of sea lions.
These handsome fellows were photographed from a boat on Steveston Jetty at the mouth of the Fraser River near Vancouver–they often hang out on the river in April and early May, following the herring and oolichans up towards New Westminster.
River otters create a lot of excitement when they show up. Many people think that they are sea otters because they are in the sea, but river otters will readily go into the ocean. Caught by surprise, visitors flip open their cell phones and try to catch a picture before the otter slips off the blocks into the water. There is often a group of river otters in the water off the point of Mayne Island that can be seen as the ferry to Vancouver from Victoria enters Active Pass.
On rare occasions people have seen whales from the tip of Ogden Point. Both killer whales and Minke whales have been observed. Usually, though, you just see the whale watching boats speed by during the tourist season on their way out to Haro Strait, Active Pass or wherever else the whales were known to be that day.