Sea Lion Beach at OrcaLab - LIVECAM -
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Sea Lion Beach at OrcaLab – LIVECAM

by Andrea Greengard

Check out the view from “Sea Lion Beach” at OrcaLab, a whale research lab on Hanson Island in British Columbia’s Johnstone Strait at Blackfish Sound. This is one of the main travel routes for the orcas, also known as killer whales, who reside in these waters during the summer and fall months.

Welcome to a favorite “haul out” spot of steller sea lions! Starting in mid-September, sea lions congregate here on Hanson Island in British Columbia to fish, relax, and socialize by the waters of the Johnstone Strait at Blackfish Sound.

Sea Lion Beach at OrcaLab on Hanson Island in British Columbia
Sea Lion Beach at OrcaLab on Hanson Island in British Columbia

Steller sea lions (the world’s largest sea lions) are found in the Bering Sea and in the north Pacific, from Japan to California. In British Columbia, many steller sea lions spend the winter months in the waters north of Hanson Island.

This live sea lion cam shows a favorite “haul-out” of theirs. A haul-out is a place on land where sea lions will gather while they are temporarily out of the water. Sea lions use haul-outs to mate and give birth, though it’s likely that they are also used to avoid predators, regulate body temperature, and provide social interaction and rest.

Best Times to Watch

This cam is live 24 hours so the scenic view is always available. The best times to catch sea lions is around September. Seeing an orca on cam is going to be easier between the months of June to August. Whether or not the sea lions are present, this is a great spot to watch a breathtaking sunset any day of the year!

What’s the difference between a sea lion and a seal?

Seals, sea lions, and walruses are all pinnipeds (Latin for “fin footed”) but there are some distinct differences between these cousins:

  • Feet: The seal’s front flippers are petite, while the sea lion’s are larger and stronger. Sea lions can also rotate their hind flippers forward and use all four fins to “walk” on land
  • Ears: A sea lion’s ears are small but visible (look for the flaps on either side of its head) while seals have no external ears–their small ear holes are only visible from very close
  • Vocalizations: Sea lions are much more vocal, known for their barks and even roars, while seals are quiet and communicate with soft grunts
  • Transportation: Both species spend time in the water and on land, but seals are better adapted to the water and are quite graceful and speedy despite their rotund shape. With their large fins and flexibility, sea lions are better equipped to move around on land.
  • Social lives: Sea lions tend to congregate in large groups that can reach upwards of 1,500 animals, while seals tend to be more solitary.

The average male sea lion’s lifespan is 18 years, while females live much longer – up to 30 years!


In 1970, Dr. Paul Spong founded OrcaLab, a small land based whale research station. It is nestled against the evergreen forest of Hanson Island in the waters of the “Inside Passage” of northern Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. OrcaLab research is land based as a matter of philosophy… research without interference. The approach works well in their area, with its many waterways & relatively small distances. OrcaLab’s location on Hanson Island at Blackney Pass is also perfect for reception of radio signals from Johnstone Strait & Blackfish Sound, two of the most important areas used by the whales. Want to learn more? Check out their website.

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