Pacific White-Sided Dolphins

Scientific Name:  Lagenorhynchus obliquidens

When is the best time to view Pacific White-Sided Dolphins in Monterey Bay and where is the best viewing?

 Pacific white-sided dolphins are found year-round in Monterey Bay, but are most frequently seen in the sanctuary during the fall and winter months. This dolphin is often spotted feeding during the day, especially over the Monterey Submarine Canyon’s edge where food is more abundant. Look for flocks of seagulls, as they tend to gather over pods of pacific white-sided dolphins feeding. Pacific white-sided dolphins are also found bow riding and performing acrobatics out of the water.

The best chance of spotting pacific white-sided dolphins is from one of several whale watching boat excursions leaving daily from Fisherman’s Wharf or Moss Landing. They may even catch a ride with your boat’s bow waves. 


About Pacific White-Sided Dolphins

This dolphin is one of the most abundant cetaceans living in central California’s coastal waters. According to NOAA Fisheries there are about 59,000 pacific white-sided dolphin inhabitants off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington. Pacific white-sided dolphins travel in groups of 10-100, sometimes in schools of thousands.

 Each pod works together in herding schools of fish for dinner. They use their slightly curved teeth to grasp their food and then swallow the fish whole. Dolphins swallow the head of the fish first so the spines do not catch in their throats.

 Pacific white-sided dolphins are extremely fast, acrobatic and animated. They enjoy leaping high out of the water and often perform somersaults, spins and belly flops.

These dolphins mate in the late summer and early fall. Gestation lasts for 9 months to one year. They reach sexual maturity at 7 – 10 years of age, or when they are 6 feet long, and give birth about every three years. Calves are three feet at birth and are nursed for over a year.


Pacific White-Sided Dolphin Fun Facts

  • Also called white-striped dolphins, hookfin porpoise or lags (a reference to their genus)
  • Use whistles to communicate which includes each dolphin having its own name-whistle
  •  Young dolphins may communicate by the touching of flippers
  • Dolphins can let half of their brain sleep! The other half is awake to allow normal functions such as swimming and breathing
  • Dolphins have strong eye muscles and can change the shape of their eye lens to focus
  • Can identify some colors and have great hearing
  • Navigate by using echolocation
  • Their brain weighs 2.5 pounds - more than 4 times the size of a similar sized land mammal

 Habitat: Temperate, coastal waters of the North Pacific Ocean; Inhabit waters from the continental shelf to the deep open ocean

Length: 5.5 – 8 feet; Adult males average 8 feet and adult females average 7.5 feet

Weight: Adults averaged at 300 – 400 pounds

Diet: Squid, small schooling fish (capelin, sardines, anchovies, hake, and herring)

 Lifespan: 36 ­– 40 + years