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Nature Marine Life

Whelks to Whales

Coastal Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest

photographs by Rick M. Harbo

Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd.
Initial publish date
Jan 1999
Marine Life, Oceans & Seas, Pacific
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2011
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 1999
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Out of print

This edition is not currently available in bookstores. Check your local library or search for used copies at Abebooks.

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 8
  • Grade: 1858238-1853487


This full-colour field guide to the marine life of coastal British Columbia, Alaska, Washington, Oregon and northern California is perfect for divers, boaters, beachcombers, and snorkellers of every experience level. The concise handbook is a ready reference to the 420 most common species that can be observed along the west coast.

The shorelines of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and northern California are so generously populated with marine animals and plants that divers, beachcombers, whale watchers, naturalists and biologists from all over the world come here to enjoy the natural wonders of the coastline.

The gentle climate and warm ocean current of this region support thousands of plants and animals, from the microscopic planktonic algae that bloom and colour the water, to the smallest snails on the seashore, to the blue whale, the largest animal on earth. The Pacific Northwest is home to the world's tallest anemone (plumose anemone) and many of the world's largest species, including the giant Pacific octopus, barnacle (giant barnacle) sea slug (orange peel nudibranch), intertidal clam (geoduck) and sea urchin (red sea urchin).

Whelks to Whales is designed for everyone from the expert biologist to the weekend naturalist and is a ready reference to the 420 most common species, the fascinating local sponges, jellyfish, crabs, shrimp, barnacles, clams, snails, seals, fish, whales, sea algae and hundreds of other living things that can be observed and identified without being disturbed.

This accessible full-colour field guide is arranged for quick identification with colour-coded sections, photographs of all species - most pictured in their natural habitat - and comprehensive but concise information on size, range, habitat and facts of interest about each species. With a glossary, checklist, reading list and full index included, Whelks to Whales is the only book you will need to identify and learn about the diverse marine life you are likely to encounter while exploring the waters and seashores of the Pacific Northwest.

About the author

Rick M. Harbo, BSc, is the author of the bestselling Tidepool and Reef (Big Country Books, 1980), Shells and Shellfish of the Pacific Northwest (Harbour Publishing, 1997), Pacific Reef and Shore (Harbour Publishing, 2017) and the award-winning Whelks to Whales (Harbour Publishing, 2011). Harbo is a diver and a retired senior marine biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. He currently volunteers as a research associate with the Royal BC Museum. Harbo lives in Nanaimo, BC.

Rick M. Harbo's profile page


  • Winner, BC Book Award

Librarian Reviews

Whelks to Whales: Coastal Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest, Revised Second Edition

This is an essential guide for anyone doing beach studies or marine biology on the west coast. The introduction explains marine habitat and environment and is followed by sections on marine conservation and scientific classification. Twelve illustrated chapters provide details of species from jellyfish to bull kelp, sponges to porpoises. Each species is identified with its common name, photograph, scientific classification, size, range, habitat, description and comment. A glossary and map are useful inclusions.

This is a revised and expanded version of the 1999 edition. It includes 60 new species and a section on eggs and egg masses.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. BC Books for BC Schools. 2012-2013.

Other titles by Rick M. Harbo