Beginning in late June 2016, we’ve been encountering some newcomers to the Salish Sea – short-beaked common dolphins! These super-fast swimmers are normally found in lower latitudes – in short-beaked common dolphins are tropical or temperate animals and generally do not journey north of California. Last September, two small schools of short-beaked common dolphins were confirmed by researchers about 46 miles off southwestern Vancouver Island near the continental shelf.
Short-beaked common dolphins reach about eight feet and 450 pounds. They have a distinctive criss-cross color pattern with the back portion dark brown-gray and the front portion between the eye and dorsal fin yellowish-tan, and feed on a wide variety of small schooling fish, including sardines, anchovies and herring, as well as squid. They are believed to be among the fastest marine mammals on the planet, accelerating to speeds of up to 40 miles per hour.