A harbour porpoise that was rescued by the Vancouver Aquarium nine years ago has died.

Staff at the non-profit noticed a change in Daisy's behaviour earlier this month, and her health took a turn for the worse this week. Despite being under round-the-clock care, the cetacean couldn’t be saved.

"With heavy hearts, we share the news that Daisy passed away on Thursday surrounded by her favourite humans, some who were also on her initial rescue team," the aquarium announced on its website.

The cause hasn't been confirmed, but preliminary necropsy results point to pulmonary disease.

The harbour porpoise was only a month old when she was found stranded and distressed on a beach off the coast of Vancouver Island in August 2008.

The aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue Centre took Daisy in and rehabilitated her. The harbour porpoise initially needed to use a flotation device because she was too weak to swim on her own.

Staff said her rescue led to a new cetacean rescue protocol that's been used at the Vancouver Aquarium and elsewhere since – including in the rescue of Levi, an adult harbour porpoise who became the first in Canadian history to be successfully released back into the wild after rehabilitation.

"Daisy helped change the way the scientific community approaches the rescue and care of harbour porpoises and other cetaceans in distress," Dr. Martin Haulena, the aquarium's head veterinarian, said in a statement.

"She's also helped [to] improve the overall understanding of porpoise biology, bioacoustics, and behaviour."

According to the aquarium, the latest estimates peg the average life span of harbour porpoises at eight to 12 years.

Daisy died the same day the aquarium announced it was challenging the Vancouver Park Board's cetacean ban in court.

Officials have applied for a judicial review they hope will overturn the bylaw, which bars any new whales, dolphins or porpoises from being brought to the Stanley Park facility.