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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Follow the team’s latest news and social feeds here. You’ll also find links to articles on the latest developments regarding citizen-science and the conservation of our oceans. 

We also use this feed for updates from the field as we pursue our own science and the occasional short video clip.

And please, feel free to join in the conversation. We’d love to hear what you’re up to as well. 


Latest Instagram

Walking through the forest near our campground on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It’s almost hypnotic listening to the breeze in the canopy and the waves on the shore. ...

As the sun ascends, an explosive burst of vibrant hues paints the sky over Damon Point, illuminating the world with a kaleidoscope of colors and reminding us of the breathtaking beauty that awaits those who embrace each new day. Read more about our adventure; the link is in the bio.⁠ ...

Theresa is leading the way to Pebble Beach. A local in the area had shared that this was once an Indian summer camp and that you could still find arrowheads and pottery. ...

Camping with Jason who found us a great spot on the Columbia River. It’s unbelievable how close the shipping channel comes to our sites. ...

Come explore the stunning beauty of Tokeland with us! 📸 Click the link in our profile to see what Theresa captured and to join in on the conversation about conservation. ...

Exploring the Coastal Charm of Tokeland - Essex Media & Explorations ...

From above, the waves on Long Beach Peninsula look like a canvas of abstract art, each one unique and captivating in its own way. It's like watching a symphony of nature in motion - powerful, graceful, and utterly mesmerizing. 🌊✨ ...

I recently witnessed a breathtaking sunset on the Pacific Coast. The hues of orange, and pink painted the sky and reflected off the calm water. It was a truly unforgettable moment. ...

Theresa's enjoying a moment of peace in Long Beach - just look at that sunset! All of us can help preserve these beautiful places for people to enjoy for years to come. Share your favorite conservation memory in the comments below! ...

We recently camped at Lake Sylvia State Park and were fortunate enough to have a break in the weather. Just as we were rounding the lake's northern end, there was a break in the clouds revealing a golden sky. ...

I'd love for you to check my lastest article which includes a short video of my visit to one of Washington's fire lookouts. https://buff.ly/409XOYR ...

Just published an article over on the website which also has a short clip of my trip to find the Burley Mountain Fire Lookout. Find the link in the bio. ...

Fluffy cotton candy clouds adorn the serene skies and tranquil waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We had to wait a bit for the tide to recede before we could start our #COASST bird survey. ...

We took shelter under an underhand to wait out a squall while conducting our #COASST bird survey on Murdock Beach. Theresa took advantage to do a bit of Agate hunting while the storm blew over head. ...

Softly floating on a canvas of blue, spring clouds dance above Waughop Lake. ...

This is just one of many structures that fell into disarray after the closure of the gravel pit that once operated on the shores of Steilacoom. ...

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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A Summer Hunting the Green Crab

This was only our second year for this site, and actually our first full year. Last year we had a late start as we waited for the permits to make their way through the system. I mention this because it makes is somewhat difficult to come up with any hard conclusions regarding the data.

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