Harbor Porpoise Found on Toleak Beach

We’ve been surveying this section of the Washington coast for approximately two years. We do it year-round every month and in every kind of weather; wind storms, rain, and snow.

Harbor Porpoise

We’ve been surveying this section of the Washington coast for approximately two years. We do it year-round every month and in every kind of weather; wind storms, rain, and snow. Occasionally in sunshine. Of course, like most aspects of life, this routine was interrupted by our recent COVID crisis. However, I do feel a much stronger appreciation for the outdoors and the healing it provides with this forced interruption despite finding the occasional sad find cast up on the beach. In this case a Harbor Porpoise.

Harbor Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) are the smallest of 22 cetaceans recorded in the Salish Sea and are probably one of the few that are resident year-­‐round. Excluding the Arctic, their distribution extends throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Their numbers in the waters of Puget Sound declined steeply in the 1970s, but their population has increased in recent years.

Phocoena phocoena vomerina is the subspecies found in the North Pacific, including the Salish Sea. Their subdued coloration is typically dark gray to brown dorsally and shades into white ventrally. Weighing less than 220 pounds and spanning less than 6 feet long, Harbor Porpoise sit low in the water and barely brush the water’s surface to breathe. Observers rarely glimpse more than their back and small, uniformly colored dorsal fin, which has a longer leading than trailing edge. They can be confused with Dall’s Porpoise (Phocoenides dallii), small, stockier porpoises that are black with white flanks along the belly and white-tipped dorsal fins and flukes). They could also be mistaken for Pacific White-­Sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens), which have similar gray backs but complex white stripes on their sides, a bi-­‐colored and more curved dorsal fin, and more exuberant, social behavior, generally traveling in larger groups and often leaping from the water completely.


Our mission is a labor of love, but it does come with overhead. If you’d like to support our efforts we’d certainly appreciate it. Currently, we’re actively participating in the following field research:

  • COASST Beached Bird Surveys
  • Wild and Scenic River Project

Thank you.

Apparent Increase In Visitation

This trip was also unusual in that for the first time there was more than one car at the trailhead. A lot more. However, while on the beach we actually only saw a handful of tents near the north end of our survey beach; I can only assume that means there were quite a handful of campers dispersed along the coast.

On the one hand, that’s encouraging, the more people get out in nature the more they’re likely to want to protect what we have left. The downside is that these remote beaches can only support so many visitations before they start to be affected in a negative way.

We’ve been surveying this section of the Washington coast for approximately two years. We do it year-round every month and in every kind of weather; wind storms, rain, and snow.

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We are the learned society for geography and geographers.
Working to provide opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to make a difference as they play in the outdoors.
Working to translate long-term monitoring into effective marine conservation solutions.
Sea Grant Washington
Provide integrated research, communication, and education to coastal communities that lead to the responsible use of the nation’s oceans.

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Looking down on our campground from atop Tower Rock. It's a straight 2000' straight drop from here. ...

Driving up to Mosquito Meadows I noticed a dark shadow and gap just off the forest road. This small but picturesque waterfall on Pinto Creek was the reward for pulling off to investigate.⁠ ...

Heading out to Gifford Pinchot National Forest to explore a few new areas. ...

After a week of sitting on the shoreline waiting for the weather on Augustine Island and her volcano, we finally had our chance to paddle over to the mainland. Fortune smiled at us that day! ...

A kayaker making his way across Coldwater Lake with the crater of Mt. St. Helens in the background. ...

On May 16, 1898, the North Head Lighthouse was put into service as the primary navigation aid at the mouth of the Columbia River and still stands as a sentinel overlooking this treacherous body of water, the confluence between the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. ...

This root was near our campsite. I was intrigued because it looks like an entire forest wrapped around it. ...

Mt. St. Helens seen from Windy Ridge. ...

Cispus River with Tower Rock in the background. Our camp was locate on the banks of the river. ...

River bank of the Cispus River inside the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. ...

Headed back to Mt. St. Helens for the weekend. Hoping to visit some of our favorite places as well as discover new ones. ...

Buck Creek is one of the many waterways that feed the Suiattle River. We spotted this view during our last Wild and Scenic Rivers fieldwork. ...

During our recent Wild and Scenic River Survey we had the opportunity to do a bit of exploring. Here's Buck Creek which drains into the Suiattle River. ...

Theresa taking a sample for the Wild and Scenic Rivers project with Adventure Scientist. We'll be heading out to the Suiattle River this weekend for another round of data. ...

Looking out over Crescent Bay from Tongue Point. We recently experienced the lowest tides in a decade here in Washington. ...

I’m not the right person to be making any kind of judgment call here, I have neither the training nor education in this field but I can say that from what I observed everyone on the beach appeared to be practicing Leave No Trace methods and the benefits of these stewards were more beneficial than any negative impact they had by camping on the beach.

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