White-beaked Dolphin

White-beaked Dolphin: Lagenorhynchus albirostris

IUCN Status: least concern

Status and Distribution summary:

The current population estimates exceed 100,000 and is thought to be relatively stable.

White-beaked dolphins are found in the cool temperate and cold shelf waters of the North Atlantic, from the ice limit south to the English Channel and coastal Maine USA. Relatively common in northern British coastal waters, and the North Sea where estimated to be over 20,000 south to Yorkshire.

Exploitation:

Small scale take, mainly for food, by local coastal communities have persisted for many years.

Other threats:

Bycatch by fishing vessels is thought to be at low levels. Climate change that causes water temperatures to rise could lead to abandonment of southern parts of the range.

Where is it seen:

Occurs in low densities in the Celtic Sea, northern Biscay and outer Channel. A small population occurs in the outer Channel and as spends some time in Lyme Bay.

Frequency of Sightings:

Very rarely seen from ferries across the Bay of Biscay, although it has been recorded in northern Biscay.

Recognition:

Large robust dolphin 2.3-3.1m

Short thick beak with variable amounts of white (increases with age?).

Dark grey, black and white fuzzily edged patterning - not sharply delineated. Includes a whitish grey lateral stripe on upper flank from above and behind the eye to tail stock and a pale grey saddle.

Dark flippers and tail, and a tall, dark, falcate fin

Behaviour:

Fast, powerful swimmer. Sometimes bow rides for a short period.

Not particularly demonstrative but does breach and leap clear when fast swimming.

Mixes with for instance Atlantic White-sided Dolphin, Common Dolphin and rorquals.

Usually in groups of 5-50 but sometimes in aggregations of up to 1,500.

Confusion species:

  • Atlantic White-sided Dolphin though this is a more slender dolphin with clearly delineated blazes - white on flank and dull yellow/mustard on tail stock.