Last month, thanks to the real-time sightings reported by our observers in Howe Sound (near Vancouver), Wild Whales staff had the chance to get out on the water and investigate one of the oceans most charismatic inhabitants: Pacific white-sided dolphins.

The team took along one of the Vancouver Aquarium’s content team staff to record the encounter.  See the video here.

After receiving scattered reports for several months of this acrobatic and energetic species in the local waterway, researchers were curious to find out more about this group.   This curiosity was due to the fact that Howe Sound doesn’t usually see many dolphins, especially continually and in large groups!   As documented in a previous story, seeing Pacific white-sided dolphins in close to the coast in British Columbia was not very common until the early 1980s.  In the last decade, they are now being spotted more in the Strait of Georgia, particularly around the upper Sunshine Coast, Nanaimo and Discovery Islands.  So why had the dolphins now entered Howe Sound?  Like the appearance of the grey whale in the same area in early May, the influx of herring in that area may have enticed them in.  Herring is a major food source for dolphins and a good supply would likely cause the animals to stick around.

The goal for the Wild Whales team while out on the water last month was to assess the group size, composition and take some photos for identification purposes.  Researchers are curious whether the dolphins being spotted in the Strait of Georgia may be a stable population or if animals are coming in and out continually from other areas.  For dolphins, researchers can identify different individuals by their unique dorsal fins, much like killer whales.  By taking photo-IDs they hope to be able to compare these photos to those from other encounters to assess whether the same dolphins are being spotted repeatedly.

To better understand the population of dolphins on the BC coast, researchers need your help!  If you spot them anywhere, please report your sighting here or by calling, toll-free 1-866-I-SAW-ONE as soon as possible.

Photo-identification of dolphins relies on their unique dorsal fins.