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.

Member of the following

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.

twitter feed

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

You never know what a simple hike through the woods will yield. Found this small dam in the hills behind our camp on Hood Canal. I'm guessing that at one time it was used by a hometead to hold water during the summer months.⁠ ...

Some of the lush green and waterfalls to be found on the Olympic Peninsula. ...

South shore of Dusty Lake just north of Vantage, Washington. We recently spent a night hoping for a shot of the Milky Way. That didn't happen as hoped, but we had quite the adventure nonetheless. ...

Just published our latest adventure - "A Visit to North Cove" - You can find the link in my bio up top. https://buff.ly/3KFAQB8 ...

Tongue Point on the Strait of Juan de Fuco. This was a negative tide and I’ve never seen so much of the reef exposed. ...

Never seen the tide so low here at Crescent Bay. Getting ready for this weekends #COASST bird survey. ...

⁠ Theresa doing her best to imidate the North head Lighthouse.⁠ ...

Here's an elevated view of the massive geologic formation on the south side of our Dusty Lakes camp. ...

Took us a bit to get into Dusty Lake and a one point we were being chase by a thunderstorm, but the views and scenery made up for the hardships. ...

A rare clear evening out on Washington's coast. The Olympic National Park has miles of coastline to enjoy. ...

Sunset over the Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Center. Watch this site as we'll be heading back next week for an extended stay to explore the Ancient Lakes area. ⁠ #northcentralwashington #ncw #centralwa #columbiagorgeinspiration ...

Squalls approaching Portage Head. Jason and I found ourselves hunkered down in a tent waiting for a bit of clearing in the morning before heading down the coast in our kayaks. ...

The old BNSF railroad maintenance shed. It's been torn down to make room for a golf course, but when it was standing, you could still find parts for the trains in labeled bins.⁠ ...

Sunset over the hills of the Columbia River Gorge near Vantage. We'll be heading back there next week...stay tuned. ...

Sunset over the old gravel dock near Steilacoom. This area abounds with a rich tapestry of history. ...

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.

Please share this:

More to explore

Darcy Island

D’arcy Island

You never know what amazing bit of history you’ll find in your own backyard. Whether it’s that your favorite little get-away once hosted a terribly

Read More »
Escape Heat

Record Heat and Nowhere to Run

With record heat searing the Pacific Northwest, over 100 juvenile Caspian Terns fled overheated rooftop nests and fell to their deaths on the pavement below.

Read More »

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.