It was a rare Christmas treat for B.C. Ferries passengers — a large pod of dolphins were seen swimming along a ferry on Christmas morning.
The pod of several hundred dolphins surprised ferry passengers travelling between Powell River and Comox on Vancouver Island. Witnesses said the encounter lasted about five minutes.
“Typically Pacific white-sided dolphins are in smaller groups, maybe an average of about 15 per pod…so when you get a day when there appears to be several hundred together it truly is phenomenal,” Andrew Trites of the UBC Marine Mammal Research Unit said.
WATCH: Pod of dolphins follow B.C. ferry Courtesy: Keyur Dalal
While there are resident dolphins in the Strait of Georgia, larger pods are more commonly seen in the open waters off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Researchers believe the two groups may have been hunting together for salmon and herring, which are more abundant this time of year.
“Our resident population has outside visitors coming in perhaps for the holidays and they’re enjoying the good food,” Trites said.
The Pacific white-sided dolphins had disappeared from coastal waters and only started making a comeback in the 1980s.
Tessa Danelesko of the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network says tracking such sightings can help protect the marine mammals.
“It’s really, really important when people do see Pacific white-sided dolphins, to report what they’re seeing because this helps researchers understand where and when they’re spending time and ultimately that can help us conserve this mysterious species.”
– With files from Tanya Beja