Pacific white-sided dolphin

Lagenorhynchus obliquidens

Energetic, acrobatic and extremely social, the beautiful Pacific white-side dolphins are a sight to behold.

Similar in appearance to their relatives, dusky dolphins, these vivacious souls are found gracing the waters of the North Pacific.

Other names: Hook-finned porpoise, White-striped dolphin, Lag, Pacific-striped dolphin

Oceanic dolphin silhouette
Male Female Calf
Maximum length 2.5m 2.4m Unknown
Maximum weight 200kg 150kg Unknown

IUCN conservation status: Least Concern

What do Pacific white-sided dolphins look like?

The strong, robust bodies of Pacific white-sided dolphins are truly beautiful. A palate of black, white and greys, tones and shades are artistically blended and streaked across their bodies. Starting with their heads, Pacific white-sided dolphins have stubby beaks and black lips. Their white throats melt into dazzlingly bright bellies and their eyes are encircled by piratical dark patches.

Running from the face to the flippers and down to the nether-regions, a striking black streak cuts a stark line between the white underside and greyish flanks. An overall dark grey or black in colour that can vary in respective populations, Pacific white-sided dolphins have greyish stripes under the dorsal fin that meet and broaden along the tailstock. Their distinctive dorsal fins are tall, curved and bi-coloured with a black leading edge fading to grey, a colouring that is replicated across their large, rounded flippers.

What is life like for Pacific white-sided dolphins?

Pacific white-sided dolphins are impressively agile, expertly acrobatic and extremely social. True showmen and women, they love to bow and wake-ride, often approaching boats and wowing onlookers with their skills. Performing spectacular leaps, flips, spins, somersaults and ‘porpoising’ at high speeds, their innate talents would bedazzle even the greatest Olympian.

Generally travelling in groups of tens or hundreds of individuals, Pacific white-sided dolphins can sometimes be seen in herds of 2,000 or more. Often segregated according to sex and age, these pods can move really fast. Not exactly subtle, they can cause so much splashing and surface disruption that boats really far away can spot them. As well as approaching boats, Pacific white-sided dolphins are also happy to hang out with other species, including northern right-whale dolphins, Risso's dolphins, sea lions and even seals.

The estimated population size for Pacific white-sided dolphins is unknown.

What do Pacific white-sided dolphins eat?

Every day and even every dinner can be different for Pacific white-sided dolphins. They like to feed on a variety of prey, like squid and small schooling fish (capelin, sardines, and herring). Staying underwater for more than 6 minutes at a time they use their small conical teeth to help them catch and grip their prey before swallowing it whole. Pacific white-sided dolphins often work together to herd schools of fish. Each adult can eat around 20 pounds of food every day.

Where do Pacific white-sided dolphins live?

Pacific white-sided dolphins are at home in the cool, temperate waters of the North Pacific and surrounding seas. Although they prefer deep, offshore waters around the continental shelf, they will sometimes venture closer to shore.

In recent decades, thousands of Pacific white-sided dolphins lost their lives as bycatch in drift and gill-nets before high-seas fisheries were banned in 1993. Unfortunately, bycatch is still a major problem, as is hunting. Deliberately targeting these joyful souls, although in historically smaller numbers than before, Japan continues to hunt Pacific white-sided dolphins – a devastating blow for the species.

As well as these significant dangers, Pacific white-sided dolphins also face threats in the form of prey depletion, marine debris and the ongoing impacts of climate change.

Distribution map

Pacific white-sided dolphin distribution map

Pacific white-sided dolphins need your help

The main threats...

  • Dolphin hunts – Dolphin hunts – Pacific white-sided dolphins are killed in hunts in Japan.
  • Captivity – Pacific white-sided dolphins one are of the species held in marine parks for human entertainment.
  • Fishing gear – Pacific white-sided dolphins get accidentally caught in fishing nets and lines, injuring or even killing them.

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