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Keywords:

  • Pacific white-sided dolphin;
  • Lagenorhyncus obliquidens;
  • occurrence;
  • photo-identification;
  • herring;
  • capelin;
  • sardine;
  • eulachon;
  • increased water temperature;
  • acoustic deterrent devices

Abstract

This study summarizes occurrence of Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhyncus obliquidens) in the Broughton Archipelago on the west coast of Canada, from October 1984 through December 1998. Dolphins were detected on 472 d. The annual percent of total occurrence rose from 0.4% in 1984 to 19% in 1994 and then declined to 2% in 1998. Seasonal occurrence peaked from 1 October through January. Dolphin group size ranged from 2 to 1,000; the most common range was 11-50. While unreported for the Broughton Archipelago prior to 1984, the species is represented by teeth distributed throughout the past 2,000 yr of First Nations midden sediment, suggesting sporadic long-term occurrence. Increased water temperature from the 1937–1984 mean of 8.6°C, to the 1985–1998 mean of 9.3°C and increased abundance of two fish populations in the study area are considered potential factors in the recent increase in occurrence. Of the 675 naturally marked dolphins that were photo-identified, 214 were resighted. A pair of dolphins was photographed swimming in tandem, fourteen months apart. Tight groups, of five or fewer extensively scarred dolphins with extremely falcate dorsal fins were seen within every aggregation of over 50 animals, suggesting the existence of all-male associations. Prey species were collected from 25 encounters with feeding dolphins; they included herring (Clupea harengus), capelin (Mallotus villosus), and Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax). Predation on eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus) is suspected. Unreported for the Broughton Archipelago, the capelin sampled in this study may belong to the Bering Sea population. Pacific sardines returned to commercial viability on the British Columbia coast in 1997 after a 60-yr population collapse. Dolphin frequency of occurrence declined following introduction of underwater acoustic deterrent devices into the study area.