Vancouverites may want to thank a school of fertile herring for the rare chance to see Pacific white-sided dolphins and grey whales in the waters near the city recently, according to a scientist with the Vancouver Aquarium.
Lance Barrett-Lennard, head of the whale and dolphin research program, said while it’s not uncommon to see these animals off the coast, they don’t tend to venture so close to the city.
On May 6, hundreds of dolphins were spotted swimming around Lion’s Bay. The previous day, a grey whale was seen in False Creek.
“It could be a coincidence,” Barrett-Lennard said. “It could, however, be (because) there has been a good herring spawn this year in Howe Sound and False Creek.”
Grey whales and dolphins, he said, are very “motivated” by herring, which have a high caloric count.
The whales — which eat herring eggs — may be especially hungry, Barrett-Lennard added, since they’re migrating to Alaska from Mexico where they have been fasting for months.
“The ones that are stopping to feed may well be the ones who don’t have enough fat as they need to get up to Alaska.”
The presence of the dolphins is interesting, said Barrett-Lennard, because they tend to live out in the deeper ocean.
“Over the past few years we’ve seen a group of about 70 or 80 around Powell River and Nanaimo. We’ve never seen 150 and never in Howe Sound,” he said. “White-sided dolphins (are) so energetic and spectacular to watch. Every time dolphins have shown up in a new area, they cause a great stir.”