WILDCOAST – A voice for the coast and the ocean

Get to Know Your Neighbor: Pacific White-Sided Dolphin

ocean

I am the Pacific white-sided dolphin. Sometimes people call me a hookfin porpoise because of my large, curved dorsal fin; but I’m not actually a porpoise. While I look similar to a porpoise, upon closer inspection you can see that I have the conical teeth of a dolphin and my physical features are actually more similar to those of dolphin. You can tell which dolphin I am because my belly and chin are a light white color; my back, tail, and lips are black; and my sides, flippers, and dorsal fin are grey. I like to eat all sorts of tasty things like squid and small schooling fish like sardines, capelin, and herring. I can dive for more than 6 whole minutes to catch my food, and I have small conical teeth that really help me hold on to my prey. When my pod is trying to find some food we all help each other out by herding fish so that they are easier to catch.

Us Pacific white-sided dolphins can live to be over 40 years old, and I may not be the biggest sea mammal out there, but when I’m all grown up I can weigh about 300-400 pounds and be anywhere between 5.5-8 feet long! I’m usually hanging out with about 10-100 of my closest friends and family in what are known as pods, and sometimes we even form superpods with thousands of us!

You can find my pods all over the cool waters of the northern Pacific. Here on the eastern side of the Pacific, you won’t find me farther south than the tip of the Baja California Peninsula, and in the summer you can find me as far north as the waters around Alaska. In recent years I’ve been moving farther and farther north because of water temperatures rising. This is because I like the cool to temperate waters of the north Pacific, so as temperatures rise I continue to move to where it’s cooler. If you go out to sea here in San Diego, you’ll be able to find me out in the deep offshore waters that I like to call home during the colder months of the year.

Why Humans Should Care About Me?

I am extremely social and love to hang out and play with other types of dolphins, whales, and humans who are in my area. If you’re ever out on a boat, there’s a pretty good chance I’m going to swim up alongside you for some bow or wake riding because the waves created by ships help me save energy while I’m swimming around and are so fun to ride! Also be sure to check out my sweet flips, spins and tricks when I hop out of the water!

I’m a considered of a species of least concern and I don’t have many natural predators, but I still have to worry about becoming bycatch in drift and gill nets. Another problem that I’m facing is prey depletion due to overfishing in my habitats. This is why we need Marine protected areas (MPAs).  People aren’t allowed to take from certain MPAs, but poaching is still a huge problem. When poachers come in and take from MPAs, it brings back the threat of prey depletion. Along with the threat from poachers we also need to worry about pollution in our oceans. Pollution in our oceans can result in the death of many species I would usually prey upon. Also my prey could be contaminated by trash that they’ve eaten, which ends up in my stomach when I eat them. Those are some of the reasons I love marine protected areas (MPAs). In certain MPAs, know as reserves,  there is no take of resources allowed so I can swim and play there with absolutely no worries of getting caught in someone’s nasty nets and my favorite foods are able to reproduce and grow undisturbed. Also people can be heavily fined for dumping and polluting in MPAs, so I don’t have to worry about any pollutants in MPAs.

If you want to help keep me safe and keep our oceans clean, then you should look into volunteering opportunities in your area. You should check out my friends at Marine Protected Area (MPA) Watch  across the state of California (http://www.mpawatch.org/site/volunteer), Tijuana River Action Network (http://www.tjriveraction.net/about/), or any other local volunteering opportunities in your area like beach clean ups. You should also check out my friends at WILDCOAST on social media because they are always working tirelessly to conserve our marine protected areas in order to keep our oceans healthy and safe.

Your pal,

The Pacific White-Sided Dolphin