British Columbia

This species of dolphin has been spotted in B.C. for the first time

A warm water species of dolphin has been spotted off Vancouver Island for the first time — alive.

Previous species of this warm-water mammal have been deceased when sighted this far north

The short-beaked common dolphin has never been spotted alive in B.C. waters before. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

A warm water species of dolphin has been spotted off Vancouver Island for the first time — at least alive.

Only three short-beaked common dolphins have been sighted in B.C. waters since the 1950s, and they were all deceased.

This time, schools of the small, two-metre long mammals have been seen swimming off the southwest coast of Vancouver Island.

The species of dolphin is quite common in its usual range, federal fisheries scientist John Ford told CBC News,

"It tends not to be found north of California," he said. " But it is abundant down there."

The dolphins are thought to have followed schools of exotic fish up the coast as part of the effects of this year's warm water effect, termed the 'blob.' (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Ford said researchers believed this year's ocean "blob"—a huge mass of warm water sitting on top of the usually cool Pacific along the coast from Oregon to Alaska — as well as El Nino, may be behind the appearance of the dolphins in B.C.

The warm water has been bringing shoals of exotic fish far north of their usual habitat and, Ford said, the dolphins are simply following their food supply.

British Columbians should not expect the short-beaked variety to become commonplace in the province's waters, however.

"The water will cool down again in a year or two," he noted. "And then we probably won't see this species of dolphin again for a long period of time."

With files from Dan Burritt

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