It was a unique rescue operation this week when a dolphin was found stranded on a sandy shoreline of Vancouver Island.
Members of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre were called into action July 26, along with staff from Parks Canada, to try and save the dolphin after it was discovered in Pacific Rim National Park.
Unfortunately they were unable to save the small mammal, believed to be a long-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis).
According to the Deana Lancaster at the Vancouver Aquarium, it’s rare to see dolphins in the water off B.C.’s coast or Washington State, which is at the very northern edge of their movement range. Dolphins are usually found in tropical and sub-tropical regions such as between central California and central Mexico, western South America and areas around Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
“Models are predicting that species will be moving further north as ocean temperatures rise. So what was once considered very rare could well become quite common,” said Dr. Andrew Trites, from the University of British Columbia’s Marine Mammal Research Unit.
“In science and government, we’ll have to understand that the status quo is a thing of the past and adapt to seeing new species.”
After initial efforts to re-float the adult male so it could swim away proved unsuccessful, Parks Canada held it in shallow water until the rescue team could arrive.
“The number of people who worked together in an effort to save this animal was fantastic,” said Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the Rescue Centre.
The first members of the rescue team were on the beach within a few hours of getting the call. But by that time the dolphin was in critical condition, and shortly after beginning the transport back to Vancouver, it stopped breathing.
The aquarium will perform a necropsy to determine the animal’s cause of death.
If you see a marine mammal that you believe is in distress, do not approach it and keep pets away. You are asked to call the Fisheries and Oceans hotline at 1-800-465-4336, or the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604-258-SEAL (7325) for immediate assistance.