Tropical bottlenose dolphins have begun hanging out off the Canadian coast

Published: April 26, 2018

bottlenose dolphins and false killer whales [Credit: Luke Halpin]

When most of us think of bottlenose dolphins, we usually imagine them playing and diving off the shores of some tropical island.

Our stereotypical idea of dolphins isn’t exactly inaccurate. Bottlenose dolphins prefer to make their homes in temperate and tropical waters, and have certainly never hung out in the cooler oceans surrounding Canadian. But now, for the first time, bottlenose dolphins have been documented swimming in the waters off Vancouver Island.

In an article authored by Marine ecologist Luke Halpin in Marine Biodiversity Records, it’s stated that bottlenose dolphins have typically only ventured as far as 41° N. However, the sighting off the Pacific coast on July 29, 2017 involved a group of 200 dolphins at 50° N.

Bottlenose dolphins
Bottlenose dolphins have never before been recorded this far north. [Credit: Luke Halpin]

“This sighting represents the only occurrence of common bottlenose dolphins recorded in Canadian Pacific waters and, to our knowledge, is the most northerly record for this species in the eastern North Pacific,” the article reads.

The bottlenose dolphins weren’t alone. They were in the company of 70 false killer whales — another variety of dolphin that also tends to prefer tropical waters.

“It’s exhilarating to see, in this case, so many individuals and species that, you know, I’ve never seen up there before,” Halpin told the CBC.

false killer whales
The dolphins were accompanied by false killer whales, another variety of dolphin that doesn’t have the distinctive long nose. [Credit: Luke Halpin]

Researchers believe that warming waters are the reason the dolphins ventured into the new territory. Climate change seems to be having palpable effects, and Halpin says that we need to ensure ocean ecosystems remain healthy and in balance.

Last summer, besides bottlenose dolphins, thousands of tropical creatures known as pyrosomes showed up off the coast of BC, an event that scientists are still trying to figure out the implications of. Halpin has previously also documented tropical swordfish and loggerhead turtles in BC waters.

“We need to think about how we live and how these changes are going to affect us in the future because ultimately we really depend on a healthy ocean,” Halpin said. “Our own existence is dependent on the oceans being in a healthy state.”

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