Vancouver Island Marine Life


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Vancouver Island marine life from a scuba divers vantage point is often both abundant and spectacular.

Clockwise from left: Kelp Greenling, Anemones, Giant Pacific Octopus.


Above, a female Wolf eel. These are actually fish, not eels. Hard to tell when they come out of there den's, as they are about 3 to 5 feet long.


As well as having some of the best cold water scuba diving in the world, Vancouver island also boasts amazing opportunities to see, photograph, and sometimes even interact with the local marine life.

From marine vegetation to Invertebrates to Crustaceans to Cephalopods to Mammals to Fish, and even to Birds, all kinds of marine life is likely to be encountered while diving in Vancouver Islands waters.

And yes I did say birds!
There is a type of seabird that you may see while diving that will leave you shaking your head and thinking you just saw a penguin. To funny!

You will not be losing your mind, they are called murres. I believe the Common Murre is the correct name for this species.


The most interesting creature in my opinion though is a Wolf eel.
A wolf eel is apparently a fish, but you would not guess that if you ever came across one (or two).
Usually if you find one Wolf eel there is generally a pair, as that seems to be how they like their living arrangement.
These fish can be quite entertaining, especially if they are hungry enough to be fed by hand. (Do watch your fingers!)


The Giant Pacific Octopus is another very interesting and commonly seen creature found in Vancouver Islands waters.
Living in crevices and under rocks, their territory can often be recognized by a litter of crab shells near the entrance to their den.
If you are lucky you will occasionally find an Octopus out in the open sunning themselves, or out cruising for a meal.


Clockwise from left: Anemones, Basket Star, California Sea Lion, and Feather Stars.


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If you like a little adrenaline boost try diving with the Sea Lions.

This can be done by charter at either Race Rocks in Victoria, or Norris Rocks off of Hornby Island.
I would add though that if you dive the Nanoose Bay area you are also likely to dive with these giants whether you like it or not.

The California and the Stellar Sea Lions are the two you may encounter while exploring Vancouver Islands Marine Life.
These huge mammals are incredibly graceful in the water for such large beasts, and can certainly be intimidating if you have not encountered them before.
The best time to see them is probably from November to March, and do be respectful as the males can be aggressive at this time of year.


Many different species of fish also make their homes in the waters off of Vancouver Island as well.

Some of the fish are even a little weird, like a Grunt Sculpin for instance. Here is a fish that walks on its fins to get around.

A Decorated Warbonnet is another fish that appears a little strange.
This one appears to be wearing a native headdress.

Probably the most commonly seen fish, are the rock fish that come in several varieties and colors, and are plentiful in our waters.
My personal favorite is the China Rock Fish, it is yellow mixed with a dark colour that is almost black.

Along with Ling Cod, Kelp and Painted Greenlings, Sea Perch, Skates, Sole and Flounders there are lots of fish to see.

There are also large schools of bait fish that are very cool to see with the sunlight sparkling off of them, I would guess they are likely either Herring, Anchovies or Eulachons.


I have seen pods of Orca (killer) whales on several occasions but thankfully never up close while diving.
I have been told by other divers that they would never attack humans, but would you personally want to test that one out?

This apex predator (pictured below), can grow to over 30ft. (9m) and weigh up to 6 tons (5400 kg).

Just seeing these giant carnivores from a distance is OK with me!


Click Here for the
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Anyway there is way to much current material on all of the marine life in the Pacific Northwest already for me to try and compete with.

I am content to share some personal stories and photo's as they are available and hope these are interesting enough to make you want to come and visit.

Vancouver Island scuba diving is simply the best temperate water diving available. This diverse and incredible amount of marine life is here, just waiting for you!

Come to Nanaimo, BC and bring  yourself and your camera, I can guarantee you will love it!!!

Dive safe, cheers!

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Tides & currents

Here is an excellent link to
tide and current charts
for Nanaimo, BC.
At the bottom of displayed
chart you will see two links,
"other tide stations" or
"other current stations"
follow these links for
information from California
and right up to Alaska.


Interested in Books about Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest?



California Sea Lion at
Cottam Pt. Nanoose Bay


Puget Sound King Crab
at Dolphin Beach
Nanoose Bay, BC


Juvenile Yellow Eye Rockfish Madrona Pt. Nanoose Bay


Sea Lions at Race Rocks
Victoria, BC
Photo courtesy of Dean Driver


Cabezon at Snake Island Wall
Nanaimo, BC


Wolf eel at Tyee Cove
Nanoose Bay, BC


Shrimp at Browning Pass
Port Hardy, BC
Photo courtesy of Craig Golby


Ghostly Jelly! Night Dive at
Tyee cove, Nanoose Bay, BC


Nudibranch at Madrona Pt.
Nanoose Bay, BC


A Sea Star among Anemones
at Gabriola Passage
Nanaimo, BC


A Rockfish at the artificial reef
HMCS Saskatchewan,
Nanaimo, BC


Sea Slug at Coffin Reef
Ladysmith, BC.


Juvenile Copper Rockfish hiding amongst Plumose Anemones.
HMCS Saskatchewan
Nanaimo, BC


One of the strangest creatures of all!


Anemonies at Browning Pass
Port Hardy, BC