Dare to be Deep: Woah! Canada?!

Canada is truly an ocean nation, home to some of the most amazing marine species and iconic coastal places in the world. We want to celebrate the awesomeness of Canada’s coastline by sharing our top 20 amazing facts. You can help us to get these amazing places and species protected by signing the Dare to be Deep pledge to show your support for marine protected areas in Canada.

1. Canada has the longest coastline in the world. Although coastlines are really hard to measure accurately and lengths can vary by tens of thousands of kilometers, all measurements agree that Canada has the longest coastline in the world by far at over 200,000 kms. CPAWS' national Dare to be Deep campaign is working to make sure that our amazing coastline is protected by a network of marine protected areas. Read More.


2. Puffins usually mate with the same partner every year, even using the very same burrow on the same patch of cliff. As yet we do not know if they actually stay together all year round or whether they somehow manage to find one another each year, amongst the thousands of birds! Also a puffin chick is called a "puffling" (how cute!) and they probably have the strangest birdsong you have ever heard... listen here                           


photo by Paul Regular


3. The Laurentian Channel between New Brunswick and Newfoundland is home to a deep-sea canyon that is 1400 km long - that is more than three times as long and almost twice as wide as the Grand Canyon! 

Images: Map of Laurentian Channel (Left) from NRCan and satellite image of Grand Canyon (right) from Wikipedia.


4. Canada has sea turtles, dude! Yep. Seriously. Although we think of sea turtles swimming in turquoise tropical waters the gigantic leatherback sea turtle is often found in chilly Canadian waters like the Southern Coast Fjords in Newfoundland. Leatherbacks can weigh up to 900 kg, dive to over 1km deep, swim at over 9kmh, yet they eat only jellyfish which are 95% water!


5. We also have big sharks! Great white sharks are rare, but occasional visitors to Canadian waters on both the East and West coasts. This year a whale watching boat in the Bay of Fundy was also treated to a surprise, and very rare sighting of a great white shark cruising the waters. Check it out!



6. What could be more Canadian than a winter skate?! Except that this winter skate is actually an endangered species that lives in the Shediac Valley in New Brunswick.

Like stingrays, skates are ‘flattened’ sharks – they have a skeleton made of cartilage, a big oily liver, rough skin, special electro-senses, and lots of (tiny) teeth. Winter skates don’t give birth to live young, but instead lay special leathery eggs, known as mermaids' purses, which they attach to rocks or seaweed by long threads on the ends.                                                                                                                                                            



7. The Bay of Fundy in has the highest tide in the world. Typical tides in Vancouver can change by about 2 to 4 metres between high and low tides, but in the Bay of Fundy this difference can be as much as 16 metres – enough to cover a 5 storey building. Check it out! It also means that you have to be really careful about how you tie your boat up!


8. The Atlantic wolfish lives in the depths of St. Anns Bank off the coast of Nova Scotia. At up to 150 metres deep temperatures can drop below 0 degrees so wolfish produce a special sort of antifreeze in their blood to keep things moving. 

Image courtesy of Ocean Quest Adventure Resort


9. Unlike other whales and dolphins, Quebec's beluga whales have flexible lips and so can make different facial expressions and even pucker-up! Mwah!



10. Northern gannets are not only beautiful seabirds but also expert divers. They plunge dive from high in the air, reaching speeds of 100km per hour before they hit the water. To prevent injury from hitting the water so hard they tuck their wings back a split-second before impact and have special air sacs under their skin to cushion the impact. The below video is of cape gannets in South Africa but Northern gannets do exactly the same thing at Les Îles de la Madeleine in Quebec.



11.  Blue whales are the largest animal to have ever lived on Earth. They can reach 30 metres in length, their tongue weighs as much as an elephant, their heart is as big as a small car, and their tail is as wide as a soccer net. Although they are the largest animal on Earth, we know very little about them. They are regular visitors to Gaspesie, Quebec.

Image from NOAA

12. Ringed seals in the Beaufort Sea in the Canadian Arctic spend much of their time underwater but have to surface at ice holes to breath, where there are often polar bears waiting from them. To make sure the coast is clear (of polar bears) they will often blow bubbles from deeper water before they surface. If a polar bear sees the bubbles it pounces, and the seal knows to look elsewhere for a safe place to surface. Sneaky seals!


13. Belugas are probably best known for their complicated songs and calls, and are known to mimic other species. In 1984 a researcher working with a captive beluga in California recorded him making human-like sounds. They thought he sounded a little like the Chef from The Muppet Show... what do you think? Listen here

Copyright GREMM

Image copyright GREMM


14. Polar bears are well adapted for life on land and in the water. They are powerful swimmers; they use their front legs as paddles and their back legs like a rudder to steer. On land, their large claws are like ice picks and they have special indents on their feet that act like suction cups so that they can walk on ice. The southern-most population of polar bears is found in Tawich, Quebec.



15. The eastern edge of Lancaster Sound is a summer breeding ground for many seabirds including the amazingly beautiful king and common eider ducks. As it is the arctic it is still chilly in the summer, so the female eider plucks soft down feathers from her breast to line the nest and keep her chicks and eggs warm. Once the chick has left the nest, humans collect the down feathers for use in cozy eiderdown blankets, pillows and coats.

Photo: Olaf Oliviero Riemer


16. Anemones are very pretty, but usually not very exciting. Most anemones are immobile, spending their entire life stuck to the same patch of rock only able to expand and retract their feeding tentacles. However by frantically wiggling its body the swimming anemone found on the West Coast of Vancouver Island can pry itself off the rock and swim away to escape from predators. 


17. In 1987 scientists discovered huge glass sponge reefs on the North Coast of British Columbia. Until this discovery glass sponge reefs were thought to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs, about 40 million years ago, so finding living sponge reefs was sort of like a herd of dinosaurs wandering around on land.


18. Tufted puffins get their name from the long golden tufts that they grow as part of their summer breeding plumage, when they also get their white face and large colorful bill. Then in the autumn, they change from their breeding plumage into their winter plumage and lose the white facemask, pigtails and colourful beak. A large portion of Canada's tufted puffins are found on the Scott Islands.


Images: tufted puffin in breeding (summer) plumage by Karen Sullivan (top), in winter plumage (bottom) from wikipedia


19. Jacques Cousteau (my hero) proclaimed the Southern Strait of Georgia and BC Gulf Islands to be some of the best temperate (cool but not cold) water diving he had ever seen and called for its protection back in 1970.

20. More than 17,000 people have signed the Dare to be Deep pledge to ask for more marine protected areas in Canada! Canada has committed to protect 10% of its oceans by 2020. At the moment only 1.3% is protected so we have a long way to go, but we can get there. You can add your support for marine protected areas in Canada by signing the pledge too.