Contact Form

    News Details

    Rare northern right whale dolphin without dorsal fin spotted off Dana Point
    • October 21, 2023

    A deckhand aboard a Dana Point whale watching charter boat named the Hoku Nai’a was in the middle of describing traits of the common dolphins when he stopped cold and announced the sighting of a rare northern right whale dolphin swimming in their midst.

    The unusual sighting on Thursday, Oct. 19, was about five miles off the coast of Dana Point, where the water is about 1,200 feet to 2,000 feet deep.

    Caitlyn Nieblas, a biologist and photographer aboard the Capt. Dave Dolphin and Whale Watching vessel, described the sighting as a first for herself, adding, “They don’t come this far south.”

    The dolphin, described as small and slender with no dorsal fin, is typically seen in the cold water of the northwest. They are often mistaken for fur seals because of their dark color and acrobatic nature. Typically, they swim in a group of 100 to 200 animals.

    But Thursday’s spotting by Stumpf was a lone dolphin swimming with common dolphins. Though it was a foggy morning, Nieblas said the animal was clearly visible, especially because it popped up right by the boat. She used her GoPro to get underwater shots and Stumpf used a drone to film the dolphin from above.

    “It looked weird swimming with the others, but it had a really cute face,” Nieblas said. “We sped up and matched its speed and I could see it from the deck of the boat.”

    Nieblas said the boat carrying the enthusiastic passengers stayed with the unusual dolphin for about 15 to 20 minutes before letting other charter boats nearby take a peek.

    Related links

    Rare, pure white Risso’s dolphin ‘a show-stopper’ with pod off Southern California
    About 100 rare (for Orange County) Risso’s dolphins spotted playing in water off Dana Point
    VIDEO: Patches, the famed West Coast dolphin, reappears for a record 4 days off Orange County
    Dana Point named first Whale Heritage Site in North America
    Dana Point festival celebrates gray whales, helps people want to protect the ocean

    “Some people didn’t get how rare it was,” Nieblas said, “but then I showed them the pictures on my GoPro, and they saw how cute its face was, and they were excited.”

    ​ Orange County Register