Lisa Spaven

Image Spaven, Lisa
Research Technician

Current research and/or projects

Lisa Spaven joined Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 2000 as a marine mammal research technician when she helped to found the initial Marine Mammal Monitoring Program conducted in British Columbia waters, before moving on to the Cetacean Research Program at the Pacific Biological Station, Nanaimo in 2001. From her role in Science, Lisa is involved in sea and aerial-based field studies of cetaceans and sea turtles in BC waters focused on the conservation of species at risk under Canada's Species-at-Risk Act, and has taken a lead role in leatherback sea turtle research and conservation efforts in the Pacific Region. Starting in 2003, Lisa was instrumental in establishing the Pacific Region's Marine Mammal Response Program, and coordinated the BC Marine Mammal Response Network until 2012. Lisa's expertise and field of particular interest includes human-marine mammal interactions and threats to recovery, and continues to be actively involved in marine mammal stranding and emergency response efforts and data archiving, post mortem investigations and threat assessments.  Most recent research includes contributions to the understanding of pinniped diet and her current efforts are focussed on cetacean population distribution and habitat use in the Salish Sea, espeically as they pertain to activities within the shipping lane. 

Research and/or project statements

  • Marine mammal and sea turtle abundance and distribution, marine mammal-human interactions, strandings, rescue, threats.

Professional activities / interests

2001-2008 and 2012-Present

Cetacean Research Program, Pacific Biological Station, Nanaimo, B.C.

Research Technician: Field/laboratory research and analysis of the abundance and distribution of cetaceans and leatherback sea turtles in BC waters; aerial and at-sea marine mammal observer; DFO Science cetacean necropsy coordinator; stranding data and sample archiving, and processing of research requests; conduct threat assessments related to marine mammal species recovery.


Marine Mammal Response Program (& BC Marine Mammal Response Network), Fisheries Management, Nanaimo, BC.

Response Biologist: Coordination of responses to reports of dead or distressed marine mammals (including public liaison, volunteer/responder coordination, necropsy coordination), responsible for data and sample archiving, and processing of research requests, as well as conducting threat assessments based on stranding data.


Marine Mammal Monitoring (M3) Program, Oceans Directorate, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Victoria, BC

Project Co-ordinator: Monitor marine mammal viewing activities in S. Vancouver Island, supervise small boat operations, conduct monthly reporting & analysis of collected data and observations, provide regular public and industry outreach and training.

Education and awards

B.Sc. Geography and Environmental Studies
(University of Victoria)

Key publications

  1. Raverty S, St. Leger J, Noren DP, Burek Huntington K, Rotstein DS, et al. 2020. Pathology findings and correlation with body condition index in stranded killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the northeastern Pacific and Hawaii from 2004 to 2013. PLOS ONE 15(12): e0242505. 
  2. Thomas Doniol-Valcroze, Linda Nichol, Robin Abernethy, James Pilkington, Lisa Spaven, Eva Stredulinsky, Jared Towers and Brianna Wright.  2019. State of the Physical, Biological and Selected Fishery Resources of Pacific Canadian Marine Ecosystems in 2019.  Chapter 27: Recovery Trends in Marine Mammal Populations: Recent examples in Pacific Canadian Waters and Potential Ecosystem Interactsions. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Biological Station, Nanaimo, BC.
  3. Nichol, L.M., Abernethy, R.M., Wright, B.M., Heaslip, S., Spaven, L.D., Towers, J.R., Pilkington J.F., Stredulinsky, E.H., and Ford, J.K.B. 2018. Distribution, movements and habitat fidelity patterns of Fin Whales (Balaenoptera physalus) in Canadian Pacific Waters. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Res. Doc. 2017/004. vii + 52 p
  4. Fenton H, Daoust P-Y, Forzán M, Vanderstichel R, Ford J, Spaven L, Lair S, and Raverty S. 2017. Causes of mortality of harbour porpoises (Phocena phocena) in the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Canada. Dis. Aquat. Org. 122:171-183.
  5. Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 2017. Action Plan for the Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) in Canada [Proposed]. Species at Risk Act Action Plan Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. iv + 23 pp.
  6. Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 2013. Partial Action Plan for Blue, Fin, Sei and North Pacific Right Whales (Balaenoptera musculus, B. physalus, B. borealis, and Eubalaena japonica) in Pacific Canadian Waters. Species at Risk Act Action Plan Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. iv + 23 pp.
  7. Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 2013.Recovery Strategy for the North Pacific Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. x + 67 pp.
  8. Spaven, L.D., Ford, J.K.B, and Sbrocchi, C. 2009. Occurrence of leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) off the Pacific coast of Canada, 1931-2009. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 2858: vi + 32 p.
  9. British Columbia Marine Mammal Response Network. 2009. Primary Response Manual. Second Edition. Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Nanaimo. 64pp.
  10. Ford, J.K.B., A.L. Rambeau, R.M. Abernethy, M.D. Boogaards, L.M. Nichol and L.D. Spaven. 2008. An assessment of the potential for recovery of humpback whales off the Pacific coast of Canada. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Res. Doc. 2009/015.
  11. Gregr, E.J., J. Calambokidis, L. Convey, J.K.B. Ford, R.I. Perry, L. Spaven, M. Zacharias. 2006. Recovery Strategy for Blue, Fin, and Sei Whales (Balaenoptera musculus, B. physalus, and B. borealis) in Pacific Canadian waters. In Species at Risk Recovery Strategy Series. Vancouver: Fisheries and Oceans Canada. vii + 53 pp.
  12. Pacific Leatherback Turtle Recovery Team. 2006.Recovery Strategy for Leatherback Turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) in Pacific Canadian Waters. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Vancouver, v + 41 pp.

Research facility

3190 Hammond Bay Road
Nanaimo, BC V9T 6N7




  • Offshore Killer Whale Recovery Team.
  • North Pacific Right Whale Recovery Team.
  • Blue, Fin, Sei Whale Recovery Team.
  • Leatherback Turtle Recovery Team.