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Oregon Coast Rarity: Stranded Dolphin Only Seen Four Times in 23 Years

Published 06/16/2018 at 6:02 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

Oregon Coast Rarity: Stranded Dolphin Only Seen Four Times in 23 Years

(Seaside, Oregon) – Visitors to the north Oregon coast received an odd but brief visitation last week: a species of dolphin rarely seen on these beaches. (All photographs courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium).

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According to crew members of Seaside Aquarium, the northern right whale dolphin (Lissodelphis borealis) found on June 9 was only the fourth time in 23 years they’ve seen this extraordinary creature. While fairly rare in these waters – but not completely – it is extremely rare for them to show up.

The dolphin was found on Manzanita Beach in the Nehalem Bay State Park area. This one was female and measured 5.5 feet in length. It's a species the crew of the Seaside Aquarium has dealt with only four times since it started working with the Marine Mammal Network back in 1995.

Crew from the aquarium took it off the sands and brought it to Portland State University where Dr. Debbie Duffield performed a necropsy. Preliminary results were inconclusive, according to Seaside Aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe, and final results are still forthcoming. It is still unknown what caused the creature’s death.

“Though sad, this has given us a unique opportunity to learn a little more about this incredible species,” Boothe said.

Northern right whale dolphins do loiter off these waters occasionally.

“These beautiful animals tend to live much further south and in deeper offshore waters (although they can range as far north as Alaska),” Boothe wrote. “Distribution depends on ocean conditions.”

How they move in the north or the south of the Oregon coast seems to depend on water temperature, according to scientists who have documented them. They appear to head south when the water is colder, but then north again when it’s warmer.

“Named after the northern right whale, which also does not have a dorsal fin, the northern right whale dolphin is known to travel in groups of up to 2,000 individuals, although they are more often is found in social groups of 200-300,” Boothe said. “They are also often found in association with other cetacean species, such as Pacific white-sided dolphins, humpback whales, and Dall's porpoise.”

Boothe said this species and other palagic dolphins are threatened by high sea driftnets. These went largely unregulated until recent years, and Boothe said this seemed to be responsible for 24 to 73 percent of the population decline. These are massive driftnets that can encompass an enormous area. Currently, such nets are required by law to use pinging devices that send acoustic warnings into the water columns to ward away cetaceans and thus reduce the by-catch of these creatures – many of which are somewhat endangered. Where to stay in this area - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours

 

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