Whatcom Magazine

Playful and social, dolphins do somersaults

Pacific white-sided dolphins ( Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) cruise the temperate waters of the north Pacific and the Salish Sea, with sightings close to Friday Harbor and Victoria, B.C. They’re playful, social animals, and can often be seen riding a boat’s bow wave and doing acrobatic somersaults.

The dolphin’s stock in Washington, Oregon and California waters numbers about 59,000. They can run in schools of thousands, but generally travel in groups of 10 to 100.

Because they have large, hooked dorsal fins, they are sometimes called the “hookfin porpoise,” but they aren’t porpoises.

They have short beaks; black lips, backs and tails; and gray sides, flippers and dorsal fins. Their belly is white, and a white or light-gray stripe on both sides of the dorsal fin resembles suspenders, extending from the eyes to the tail.

Adults average 300 to 400 pounds and up to 8 feet in length. They eat squid and small fish, and can dive for more than six minutes to find food. Adults can live more than 40 years, provided they don’t become entangled in commercial fishing nets.