PHOTOS: Striped dolphin spotted on Haida Gwaii, sparking marine investigation

Alex Rinfret discovered a stranded striped dolphin on a Tlell beach on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, while walking her dog south of the Crow’s Nest Cafe. Experts are calling Rinfret’s discovery the first recorded sighting of the species on Haida Gwaii. (Alex Rinfret/Facebook photo)
Alex Rinfret discovered a stranded striped dolphin on a Tlell beach on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, while walking her dog south of the Crow’s Nest Cafe. Experts are calling Rinfret’s discovery the first recorded sighting of the species on Haida Gwaii. (Alex Rinfret/Facebook photo)
Alex Rinfret discovered a stranded striped dolphin on a Tlell beach on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, while walking her dog south of the Crow’s Nest Cafe. Experts are calling Rinfret’s discovery the first recorded sighting of the species on Haida Gwaii. (Alex Rinfret/Facebook photo)
Alex Rinfret discovered a stranded striped dolphin on a Tlell beach on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, while walking her dog south of the Crow’s Nest Cafe. Experts are calling Rinfret’s discovery the first recorded sighting of the species on Haida Gwaii. (Alex Rinfret/Facebook photo)

Marine experts are investigating after the first-ever recorded sighting of a striped dolphin on Haida Gwaii.

Alex Rinfret was walking her dog near Tlell on Wednesday morning when she thought she saw a baby killer whale washed up on the beach, just south of the Crow’s Nest Cafe.

“The markings were quite striking,” Rinfret said of the animal, which was between six and seven feet long. “Very dark on top with a white belly.”

She had seen seals, sea lions, even sharks washed up on the beach before, but never a dolphin. And as it turned out, no one is believed to have seen that species of dolphin on Haida Gwaii before, ever.

ALSO READ: Rare dolphin offers rare opportunity

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) was called to the scene and staff identified the animal as a deceased striped dolphin, not to be confused with the more common Pacific white-sided dolphin.

“It was pretty exciting,” she said. “It was a pretty interesting thing to come across and of course I’m wondering what happened to it.”

Masset-based fisheries officer Jamie Constable told the Observer there were no obvious signs of trauma on the dolphin, and it had been taken away on a stretcher Wednesday afternoon to be frozen and later analyzed by veterinary pathologist Dr. Stephen Raverty.

Constable said Raverty will perform a necropsy, looking for signs of disease or pathogens, as well as cause of death.

ALSO READ: Haida Gwaii grey whale deaths add to growing trend

Nanaimo-based marine mammal expert Dr. John Ford, who ran the cetacean research program at DFO’s Pacific Biological Station for more than 15 years, told the Observer there were no known sightings of striped dolphins in B.C. waters until last September, when a whale watching operator saw a lone striped dolphin swimming south of Victoria.

“This is a species of dolphin that tends to live in warm water,” Ford said, adding the animals generally do not swim north of California. “This is the first one north of Vancouver Island.”

Since the species tends to be social, travelling in schools of up to 200 animals, he said it is likely the single, stranded animal found by Rinfret had some health issues.

“As temperatures in the ocean are gradually increasing we may expect more sightings of exotic warm water species,” he added.

“Who knows what next will turn up on the beaches.”

ALSO READ: B.C. rescuers unable to save dolphin found on Vancouver Island

Ford reminded residents that if they find a marine animal stranded on the beach, dead or alive, they should call the DFO “Observe, Record Report line” at 1-800-465-4336.

“It’s really important,” he said.

Sometimes staff are able to save live, stranded animals and “it’s always important to try and examine fresh animals like this where one can actually determine if there’s a viral pathogen.”

“It might be possible to learn from it.”

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email:
karissa.gall@blackpress.ca.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Fisheries and Oceans CanadaTlell

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Drive-in movie coming to Port Alberni

Event limited to 50 vehicles due to COVID-19

City of Port Alberni’s security program open to all residents

Matching grant program offers 50 percent reimbursement for security upgrades

Hundreds of cars participate in second Port Alberni Cruise for Care

Event was a salute to frontline workers at seniors’ care homes

VALLEY SENIORS: A second chance comes with enough memories for two

The Dietrich family makes its mark on Abbeyfield House in Port Alberni

Inquest into death of Jocelyn George postponed due to COVID-19

Coroner’s inquest into 2016 death of Port Alberni woman was supposed to start July 6

An ongoing updated list of Alberni Valley events affected by COVID-19

Has your event been cancelled or postponed? Check here

Vancouver Island Regional Libraries to offer ‘takeout’ style services

VIRL will offer the service on a branch-by-branch basis

George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

Death sparked a wave of protests across the U.S. and abroad

COVID-19: B.C. commercial landlords can’t evict if they decline rent assistance

Emergency order ‘incentive’ for federal program, Carole James says

B.C. Hockey League prepping for 2020-21

League reviewing different scenarios and start times in compliance with provincial regulations

Duncan’s Queen Margaret’s School pioneers thermal imaging in school reopening

Private school is first in B.C. to use new tech post-COVID-19

Investigators probe death of CN employee at Surrey rail yard

Transportation Safety Board is investigating an ‘occurrence that took place during switching operations’

Trans Mountain starts B.C. leg of pipeline twinning project

Mostly finished in Alberta, Burnaby terminal expanding

Most Read