A rare right whale dolphin washed ashore Manzanita Beach in Oregon. The Marine Mammal Stranding Network – a group that dedicates their time to understanding and saving stranded animals – was notified as soon as Nehalem Bay State Park staff stumbled upon the deceased creature on the beach. Right whale dolphins are a rare sight with this being one of only four sightings along the Northern Oregon coastline in more than 20 years.
Right whale dolphins look to be a cross between an orca whale and a bottlenose dolphin and were named for their resemblance to right whales. They were discovered in the 1800s but they still remain somewhat of a mystery. The highly-social right whale dolphin can be found across the North Pacific from Japan to Alaska and even as far south as Baja California traveling in groups of up to 2,000. It’s hard to say how many right whale dolphins exist in our waters, but to give you more of an idea, experts from the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary believe there are roughly 14,000 on the North American coast alone. Migratory patterns are unknown, but right whale dolphins have been documented to move as ocean temperatures change each season.
Marine debris and toxic contamination threaten right whale dolphins, but their biggest threat, states Oregon Public Radio, comes from high-sea drift nets, some of which extend ten miles wide and up to 50’ deep. These previously unregulated fishing nets catch anything that swims into them, and according to experts, they are responsible for 24
to 73 percent of right whale dolphins’ population decline. Today, pinging devices are used on each net to warn cetaceans of their existence.
The 5.5’ female was picked up by the Seaside Aquarium and transported to Portland State University for a necropsy that yielded inconclusive preliminary results. Even so, the aquarium remains positive in a recent Facebook post. They state, “Though sad, this has given us a unique opportunity to learn a little more about this incredible species.” The cause of death is still unknown at the time of this writing, but further testing is being conducted to determine what happened to this obscure creature.