Historically, Fin Whales (Balaenoptera physalus) were relatively common off the west coast of North America but very few records of their occurrence in waters between Vancouver Island and continental North America exist. To confirm their presence in these waters we collected photographs documenting at least 13 unique individuals during 43 encounters from 1999 to 2017. These records are the first of live Fin Whales in Queen Charlotte, Johnstone, Georgia and Juan De Fuca Straits and are also the only confirmed sightings between Vancouver Island and continental North America since 1930. Additionally, 12 dead Fin Whales all with evidence of ship strikes are reported in these waters between 1986 and 2017. Most (88%) sightings of live Fin Whales occurred between July and October and no individuals were documented dead or alive between January and April. We suggest that Fin Whales in coastal waterways may be at greater risk to ship strikes and predation by mammal-eating Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) than in less confined waters further offshore.
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Vol. 99 • No. 1